Computer Interface as Film: Post-Media Aesthetics of Desktop Documentary


  • Luka Bešlagić



aesthetics, desktop documentary, essay film, experimental film, interface, post-media, postproduction, video essay


This paper explores a recently emerged audiovisual form called desktop documentary, an interdisciplinary computer-based variant of the essay film. As a post-media practice, no longer exclusively dependent on the film medium, desktop filmmaking represents a hybrid audiovisual genre entirely conducted in the digital environment by using and exploiting preexisting materials in new contexts while using the advantages of the Internet, widely used software and digital tools. Desktop documentary filmmaking corresponds to the widespread artistic practice of postproduction – a concept introduced by Nicolas Bourriaud signifying a new state of affairs when all texts of culture are already available (mostly as digital objects) and the artist intervenes on existing materials rather than produces artworks ex nihilo. Belonging to the tradition of essay film – a cinematic documentary and experimental mode in which moving images and off-screen verbal voice or textual captions establish complex relations – desktop video essays introduce new post-media aesthetics. Similar to the idea of using everyday materials in the artistic context, initially proposed with Duchamp’s ready-mades, which unprecedentedly effaced every notion of the style from their avant-garde aesthetics, desktop documentaries often minimize and abolish cinematic stylistic qualities. One of the most significant aspects of desktop documentaries is that the act of film viewing does not differ from common computer user experience: having replaced traditional film screen with the computer interface, the interactive process of computational multitasking and navigation, performed on various digital data and files, becomes the very content of the film. After the historical overview of the phenomenon and general introduction into the post-media theory, selected works of representative desktop documentarists such as Kevin B. Lee and Louis Henderson are analyzed in their deconstructive approach to traditional and digital filmmaking – subversive both formally and politically.


Article received: May 28, 2019; Article accepted: July 6, 2019; Published online: October 15, 2019; Original scholarly paper

Author Biography

Luka Bešlagić

Faculty of Media and Communications, Singidunum University, Belgrade

Luka Bešlagić was born in Belgrade in 1985. He acquired bachelor’s and master’s degree in Communication at the Faculty of Media and Communications (Singidunum University, Belgrade); at the same university, he defended the doctoral thesis in 2017. His research is concerned with inter- and transdisciplinary theories of art, literature, and media, with special emphasis on experimental textual practices. He is an author of several articles and literary texts published in journals such as AM: Journal of Art and Media Studies, Srpska politička misao, Philological Studies, ProFemina, Agon, Proletter, and theoretical/prose poly-genre text Dva govora romana (Belgrade, Utopia, 2012) as well. His theoretical study Teorije eksperimentalne tekstualne produkcije (Belgrade, FMK, 2017), based on his doctoral dissertation, received an award for contribution to the innovative educational practice. In addition to his writing practice he also conducts lecture performances. Currently he is engaged as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Media and Communications.


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How to Cite

Bešlagić, L. (2019). Computer Interface as Film: Post-Media Aesthetics of Desktop Documentary. AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (20), 51–60.



Main Topic: Contemporary Aesthetics of Media and Post-Media Art Practices