Marina Gržinić: A Radical Documentary Complex: Insurgent Flows.

I start from a single work, the film Insurgent Flows. Trans*Decolonial and Black Marxist Futures, which was made as a collaborative project. It takes up a variety of issues, including immigration and border policies, technologies used primarily for policing or militaristic purposes, and the need to move beyond White Eurocentrism and US exceptionalism. The point is to challenge these narratives, including the narrative that the only relevant dominance over the algorithm is that of White supremacy. 

Insurgent Flows is what I call the “radical documentary complex,” which stands in stark contrast to the “prison industrial complex.” It works with strategies that tell stories of resistance and confront a present that is rife with prejudice and oppressive, calculated misinformation. In the “radical documentary complex,” we emphasize the importance of context and historical perspective, focus on stories of resistance, and often employ a variety of strategies to inspire and inform viewers about the struggles and triumphs of those who resist oppression or injustice. A “radical documentary complex” refers to documentaries that focus on addressing pressing social issues in bold and impactful ways.

Insurgent Flows targets oppressive forces in the context of necropolitics and addresses misinformation, conspiracy theories, and amplifying outrage. It is about countering or resisting the deadly effects of oppressive necropolitical systems. By illuminating the core of necropolitics, the film confronts viewers with the reality of oppressive systems and asks them to imagine and work toward a more just society. The film relates to the exploration of cinematic performative expressions that challenge and subvert the oppressive forces associated with necropolitics.

The term that has become established in necropolitics along with “Queer Death” is “Overkill.” People were killed with the mechanism of absurd violence without limits. It is a maximum of hostile violence directed mainly against trans* people. It is an overkill. Necropolitics marginalizes or annihilates us, but we become the seeds of change. As Jill H. Casid says, “to seed.”[1] It’s the idea that you become present on absolutely every level to what you already are. You are present through the conceptual-political-apparatus because you open the way for all those in “the middle” who say nothing more can be done. 

What do we do at Zoom when we speak remotely for an hour? It suggests that these discussions and explorations that take place in a virtual format, possibly through online discussions held through platforms like Zoom, are a reflection on how to overcome destructive patterns and confront death in a way that allows for survival and presence. Through communities like queer and trans*, a new paradigm of thinking about death is emerging.

So it’s about how we as artists can meet the challenges of necrocapitalism and articulate new forms of resistance. Or, as Jovita Pristovšek asked in a conversation with Macarena Gómez-Barris, “How can we understand refusal and solidarity together, in a way of proximity? How can we, as White women and after more than 500 years of genocidal history, enter into this relationship of solidarity?”[2] In other words, it is about subjectivities and communities that we must not only invent, but also recognize as such.

This means making militant choices and assemblages (and no longer digital collages that also define biopolitics in the video medium). Assemblages are new radicalized militant dispositifs,[3] because only with them (or not with them at all) can we respond to necropolitics. Assemblage is Brian Massumi’s translation for “agencement,”[4] a concept that involves arranging or juxtaposing images that are no longer emptied and polished. Nevertheless, in this form of politics, life cannot be considered art, because it cannot be easily symbolized in the world of art. Those who have the capacity to reflect on the conditions of their lives and to change those conditions through politics – both personal and communal – to undo those conditions, they are anything but in a privileged position.

Yet, art can be a powerful social practice when seen as the death of the aesthetics of imperialism. In her “Dancing the Return,” Rizvana Bradley has uncovered the almost forgotten ideology of imperialism. Drawing on Frantz Fanon’s “beliefs that the colonized had indeed internalized the brutalizing tactics of colonial imperialism in the service of their own defeat,”[5] Bradley traces a “remainder of colonial imperialism and […] the constitutive surplus of a necropolitical order that seeks to undermine the genuine aesthetic impulses of those who survived these colonial technologies of discipline.”[6]

This death of an aesthetic of imperialism suggests to us a pure potentiality, an obsession, a political-aesthetical stance. It appears in Dionne Brand’s series of haunting prose poems, The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos.[7] It’s under “VERSO 16.3: Museums and Corpses” where Brand also utters,


You have the privilege of this avant-garde seeing, the clerk says. It is not a privilege at all, to see, the author says. I think quite the opposite, to be the only person that this seeing is available to. The only person? Let us say then one of few. I don’t think that is particularly avant-garde because people live that every day. Living that little fissure between scenes of the real. Everyone lives that every day but we quickly seal the fissure for whatever pleasures are in the so-called reality, or, we give up on being on this side of the fissure because it is too lonely there. It is a chasm.[8]

This is resistance to necropolitical conditions of death – “death that can never die,” as David Marriott has discussed since 2007.[9] I need to talk about abstraction in terms of necropolitics. Necropolitical abstraction, or the politics of abstraction, is actually the highest form of abstraction that works perfectly with financial capital, because financial capital presents itself as capital without a subject; an algorithmic occurrence that is transnational, everywhere, and yet nowhere. 

In this respect, financial capital and the processes of artistic abstraction function to support each other, while abstraction enables a specific form of subjectivity completely stylized and associated with figures that have paradoxically become snobbish. The abstract subject is nothing other than a formalized snob. Extractivism, which is a modern colonial concept, can now function as turbo-extractivism.

Some time ago I wrote that when we try to think about politics, we think only of what was once political, although, as Ramón Grosfoguel said in a conversation that appears in the film Insurgent Flows, even now, as we speak, struggles for the future are being fought, both at the center and on the margins. All those who mean nothing to Europe, to the West, are at the forefront with their bodies and concepts, and these positions must be fully supported, because I am convinced that with them we can resist the processes of abstraction mentioned above.

As Tjaša Kancler read Nat Raha: “While […] the visibility of trans* issues is increasing […], the differentiation of livable trans and gender non-conforming lives along the line[s] of race/ethnicity, class, gender, dis/ability, and migration status remains firmly and increasingly in place.”[10]

Nat Raha goes on to say that the recent work of Sara R. Farris,[11] Silvia Federici, and others


has highlighted that a gendered, racialised division of labour within white, patriarchal capitalist society reproduces the feminized and racialised character of this work across the supposed “divide” of the Global North and Global South, where women and feminized workers from the Global South (that is, workers of colour) are often responsible for the social reproduction of bodies in or from the Global North. Such work has also highlighted that waged reproductive labour makes up a significant portion of GDP in Western economies.[12]

Insurgent Flows challenges oppressive ideologies, and explores alternative possibilities of self-expression, identity, and community. It seeks to break down dominant power structures and provide a counterpoint to the oppressive forces that shape society. The goal is to explore the history of resistance and to reinvent and reconfigure spaces and bodies within and against necropolitical contexts.

Documentaries have the power to engage audiences through what they include and exclude, while also serving as an educational tool that counteracts misinformation and highlights stories of resistance. Sometimes what is left out can be as important as what is shown because it encourages the viewer to think critically and consider what might be missing from the narrative in order to challenge existing prejudices and false beliefs.

It is also crucial to emphasize the materiality of the body and sexuality, which is often suppressed due to various forms of racializations. It remains marginalized, especially in queer, trans*, and LGBTQI+ communities. This marginalization is racist. But it is in these spaces that this “lust” for life exists, despite all the circumstances that attempt to take away this longing, this desire for life and connection. Ultimately, it is important to pay attention to how we treat “Others” who are violently constructed identities. Who is the “Other?” Who is born as the “Other”? No one!

Insurgent Flows includes interviews with activists, archival footage, personal narratives, and a conscious decision about what to include and what to leave out. We engage with archival practices by re-imagining historical narratives and examining how they are acquired and preserved to ensure they are part of insurrectional archival practices. What does archival excavation consist of here? Everyone goes back to history. Big Tech on the other side manipulates and entices its users to maximize screen time. Disinformation that circulates on social media has real consequences.

Inscription (and non-inscription) occur on two fronts: reaching into archival material on the Internet and then everywhere else. Even a film becomes an archive in the sense that it is already an archive of the time in which it was made. Inscription and re-inscription take place in this performative materiality, which is never just material, but is always an ideological position, whether we are aware of it or not.[13]

The reality that documentaries try to capture is always filtered through the subjective interpretations of the director(s), the producer(s), the cinematographer(s). In this sense, we can say that documentaries are inherently a form of fiction because they are always contextualized and therefore limited to certain aspects of reality. Furthermore, social platforms such as social media have added an additional layer of complexity as they have become sources of information for documentaries and distribution channels.

This has made it difficult to distinguish between true and false information, as they are all intertwined and entangled with various political and social interests. Therefore, documentary films today are often faced with the problem of how to represent reality without losing their message to the flood of information. We are confronted with a reality that is so brutal and violent that we think it is fiction. This raises the question of whether there is still a connection to reality or whether documentaries have become a purely virtual experience of the traumatic real.

As for the relationship between the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary, this relationship is changing over time, and today social platforms are a crucial part of the imaginary that shapes our perception of reality. On the other hand, precisely because of platforms and the like, the so-called imaginary has taken a privileged position in relation to the real. This means that the symbolic appears only as a form of narrative that no longer has the same meaning.

On the one hand we have the hard trauma of the real, and on the other hand the imaginary has taken the place of the symbolic. This transformation seems to be one of the most important areas to think about the changes in working with images. We are talking here about the tyranny of images.

In any case, it seems that the documentary dispositif needs to be reevaluated and face the challenges of the digital age. This could include examining the materiality of the media as well as the question of who has access to production and distribution.

Insurgent Flows addresses questions of legitimacy, art, technology, political subjects and their relationship to technology, and the rearticulation of power relations. Legitimacy and illegitimacy are on the border of the political. So, it is a political moment, a consideration of how to make legitimate something that might otherwise seem illegitimate. Or as has been said: how to make a film political.

Today, the analysis of the necrocapitalist mode of reproduction is crucial for determining what is legitimate.[14] In conditions bordering on hyper-expropriation, the absence of elements of reproduction and production is seen as illegitimate. Legitimacy is also related to what we aspire to. Indeed, this is also the space of art that we cannot fully control. What is this place we occupy through the process itself, when we ourselves are an assemblage of theory, history, practice, our own production of possibilities, our good or bad life, the conditions in which we work?

For a long time, it has been believed that fiction can tell everything. Lately, I myself have begun to doubt this modernist foundation, because it begs the question: does fictionalization refer only to what we call the traumatic real? Can fiction compete with the necropolitical reality in which death organizes every relationship in society, including private life? In relation to the documentary dispositif, the question arises: are documentary and fiction still separate dispositifs at all, considering that both start from a specific conception of time within which we could still speak and, above all, distinguish between documentary on the one hand and fiction on the other?

“Time is Everything” proposes a philosophical perspective. Time is a fundamental element of storytelling and filmmaking. Insurgent Flows, which lacks the classic film structure of beginning, middle, and end, emphasizes a time of resistance without the interval.

This is partly because we have wasted a lot of time in the last decades, after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989). The educational process has completely failed to consider the power of queer studies, trans studies, radical Black studies, and other important fields that have always been marginalized as “other.”

There was an important turning point in the 1990s when computers suddenly changed capitalism completely and, in some ways, produced a second stage of biopolitical capitalism. They changed the relationships between different practices, including scientific disciplines, which were given entirely new future possibilities as a result. For example, biotechnology, forensics, space exploration, and even the human body received a new boost from computers.

The same happened with all forms of media. In the area of media, the computer provided greater access to information and new forms of communication. Online media became an important source of news and information and had a significant impact on public opinion and political processes.

However, this “technological democratization” has produced monads of postmodern fascism in the sense that technology allows everyone to create and share their individual stories online, but we can observe that the social dimension is no longer taken into account. This, of course, fits very well with global necrocapitalism, because it can only resolve and secure its globality, its relocation of financial capital, through the form of postmodern fascism (with fragmentation and fixation on its own narrative).

Technology today plays an extremely important role in determining the positions of culture and art. However, I would not agree that a poor image is the solution to this problem, because capitalism as such works circularly. This means that the poor image existed before. In the early days, video was produced without much sophistication – it lacked editing effects and was simply what was shot. Because of this simplicity, it had power and quickly became a feminist tool. It is no coincidence that one of the first significant videos was titled Semiotics of the Kitchen[15] and was made by White women who were claiming their place in art production. The term “poor image” can refer to an image or video production that has been intentionally created in a way that appears inferior, unprofessional, cheap, or outdated. It can be considered an aesthetic choice that avoids high production quality and instead emphasizes rawness, immediacy, and authenticity. Nevertheless, the concept of the poor image should be placed in the context of the Western world (where one can pretend to have almost “nothing of an image” even though one has everything).

But repetition is never about sameness. Today, the poor image is a repetition of what existed fifty years ago, and one must critically question the belief in the possibility of competing with poor images against hyper-digitized turbo images that have completely transformed aesthetically. Therefore, the demand in the West to return to the poor image that stands for “poverty” is an impossible disposition. The “poor image” no longer has the power to provide a relevant response to the current situation. It is important that we are aware of what is happening today as technology. We need to try to understand the potential rise of the digital and figure out what needs to be done and if there is a way forward and not just a capitalist backward movement.[16]

The idea of “recalibration of one’s gaze” is closely associated not only with Achille Mbembe,[17] but especially with Paul Virilio.[18] The term refers to his idea that the way we see the world is changing through the use of technology, especially digital technology. Virilio wrote that this change is so profound that our perception of the world is changing at the level of a third eye, that is, at the level of our ability to see the world only and exclusively through prosthetic technology.

This is also true for artists working with video and film (Jordan Peele) who seek to see “through the colonial apparatus” to examine and recalibrate reality. Echoing Marriott’s deeply rebellious thoughts and looking to our own video production, Aina Šmid and I projected in the video Bilocation (1990) the disobedience of Kosovars under the violence of the turbo-fascist regime of Slobodan Milošević on the body, the eye, the guts of a performer.

This recalibration also has to do with racialization, with unimaginably violent selection processes that constantly recalibrate discrimination. For a long time, especially under socialism, racialization was considered a word that had no place in time and space. No one grappled with it. Racism was seen as something that did not affect Eastern Europe. However, it turned out that racialization was actually present, not only in the exploitative labor relations in the White Man’s regime, but also in the violent targeting and use of violence against people who were almost seen as a different “race” – in our former Yugoslav context: Roma, Muslims, refugees and so on. In the West, and in Europe after 1989, there are millions of racialized postcolonial positions, and even the mere labeling of them as postcolonial subjects, when in fact they are generations of European citizens, is racist. This kind of labeling persists.[19]

Today, as in the 1970s, we talk about the Occident and the Orient, but we talk less about Said’s Orientalism[20] and much more about the New Orientalism that reveals a new function of the body of the “Other,” namely as Ornamentalism.[21] But what if this is challenged, as in Insurgent Flows? Think.

<– back to Insurgent Flows.


[1] Jill H. Casid, “Doing Things with Being Undone,” Journal of Visual Culture 18, no. 1 (2019): 30–52, I have developed some of the thoughts presented here in Marina Gržinić, “Video kratki stik v 21. stoletju: turboekstraktivizem in nekrokapitalistična abstrakcija. Intervju z Marino Gržinić” [Video Short-Circuiting in the 21st Century: Turboextractivism and Necrocapitalist Abstraction. Interview with Marina Gržinić], interview by Nina Cvar, KINO!, no. 49–50 (2023): 60–76.

[2] Jovita Pristovšek in Macarena Gómez-Barris, “Other Knowledge, Second Move: A Conversation with Macarena Gómez-Barris,” conversation by Marina Gržinić and Jovita Pristovšek, in Political Choreographies, Decolonial Theories, Trans Bodies, eds. Marina Gržinić and Jovita Pristovšek (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2023), 247.

[3] See Jasbir K. Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007).

[4] See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).

[5] Rizvana Bradley, “Dancing the Return,” Callaloo 40, no. 2 (2017): 145,

[6] Bradley, 146.

[7] Dionne Brand, The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos (Durham: Duke University Press, 2018).

[8] Brand cited in Peter Bouscheljong, “Dionne Brand | The Blue Clerk,” BLACKOUT ((poetry & politics)) (blog), March 16, 2020, https://my-blackout .com/2020/03/16/dionne-brand-from-the-blue-clerk/.

[9] David Marriott, Haunted Life: Visual Culture and Black Modernity (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 231.

[10] Tjaša Kancler, “Body-Politics, Trans* Imaginary and Decoloniality,” paper presented at the conference “Decolonizing Transgender in North,” 4th Nordic Transgender Studies Symposium, The Centre for Gender Studies (CGF), Karlstad University, Sweden, October 11–13, 2016, available at See also Nat Raha, “The Limits of Trans Liberalism,” Verso blog, September 21, 2015,

[11] See Sara R. Farris, “Migrants’ Regular Army of Labor: Gender Dimensions of the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Migrant Labor in Western Europe,” The Sociological Review 63, no. 1 (2015): 121–43; Sara R. Farris, “Social Reproduction, Surplus Populations and the Role of Migrant Women,” Viewpoint, November 2015,

[12] Natalia Raha, “Queer Capital: Marxism in Queer Theory and Post-1950 Poetics” (PhD diss., University of Sussex, 2019), 112.

[13] Gržinić, “Video kratki stik v 21. stoletju,” 63–64.

[14] Gržinić, 64.

[15] Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975, single-channel video, b&w, sound, 6 min 21 s, Collection MACBA, MACBA Foundation.

[16] Gržinić, “Video kratki stik v 21. stoletju,” 67.

[17] Achille Mbembe, Necropolitics, trans. Steven Corcoran (Durham: Duke University Press, 2019).

[18] Paul Virilio, Open Sky, trans. Julie Rose (London: Verso, 2008). Originally published as La vitesse de liberation (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1995).

[19] Gržinić, “Video kratki stik v 21. stoletju,” 72–73.

[20] Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).

[21] Anne Anlin Cheng, Ornamentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).


Bouscheljong, Peter. “Dionne Brand | The Blue Clerk.” BLACKOUT ((poetry & politics)) (blog), March 16, 2020. https://my-blackout .com/2020/03/16/dionne-brand-from-the-blue-clerk/

Bradley, Rizvana. “Dancing the Return.” Callaloo 40, no. 2 (2017): 142–56.

Brand, Dionne. The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018

Casid, Jill H. “Doing Things with Being Undone.” Journal of Visual Culture 18, no. 1 (2019): 30–52.

Cheng, Anne Anlin. Ornamentalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987

Farris, Sara R. “Migrants’ Regular Army of Labor: Gender Dimensions of the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Migrant Labor in Western Europe.” The Sociological Review 63, no. 1 (2015): 121–43

Farris, Sara R. “Social Reproduction, Surplus Populations and the Role of Migrant Women.” Viewpoint, November 2015.

Gómez-Barris, Macarena. “Other Knowledge, Second Move: A Conversation with Macarena Gómez-Barris.” Conversation by Marina Gržinić and Jovita Pristovšek. In Political Choreographies, Decolonial Theories, Trans Bodies, edited by Marina Gržinić and Jovita Pristovšek, 240–52. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2023

Gržinić, Marina. “Video kratki stik v 21. stoletju: turboekstraktivizem in nekrokapitalistična abstrakcija. Intervju z Marino Gržinić” [Video Short-Circuiting in the 21st Century: Turboextractivism and Necrocapitalist Abstraction. Interview with Marina Gržinić]. Interview by Nina Cvar. KINO!, no. 49–50 (2023): 60–76

Kancler, Tjaša. “Body-Politics, Trans* Imaginary and Decoloniality.” Paper presented at the conference “Decolonizing Transgender in North,” 4th Nordic Transgender Studies Symposium, The Centre for Gender Studies (CGF), Karlstad University, Sweden, October 11–13, 2016. Available at

Marriott, David. Haunted Life: Visual Culture and Black Modernity. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics. Translated by Steven Corcoran. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019

Puar, Jasbir K. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007

Raha, Nat. “The Limits of Trans Liberalism.” Verso blog, September 21, 2015.

Raha, Natalia. “Queer Capital: Marxism in Queer Theory and Post-1950 Poetics.” PhD diss., University of Sussex, 2019

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978

Virilio, Paul. Open Sky. Translated by Julie Rose. London: Verso, 2008. Originally published as La vitesse de liberation (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1995).

<– back to Insurgent Flows.