Harun Farocki



“Harun Farocki. Screenings” is a screening program that takes a singular artistic output to be a system of resonances and descriptions in which a new audience can be immersed. As if in a triage, the public that absorbs Farocki also screens the vitality of and the need for his political propositions, sociocultural articulations, and historical interventions today.
"Still Life"
According to Harun Farocki, today's photographers working in advertising are, in a way, continuing the tradition of 17th century Flemish painters in that they depict objects from everyday life – the "still life". The filmmaker demonstrates this intriguing hypothesis with three documentary sequences which present the photographers at work creating a contemporary "still life": a cheese-board, beer glasses and an expensive watch. (Production note)
"Two Paths"
This short piece for the television station Sender Freies Berlin (SFB) is highly relevant to Farocki's later work. Zwei Wege is a description of a picture! Farocki shows us an image of an oil painting, a religious allegory sketching out the 'right' and the 'wrong' path for a Christian. The one path leads to heaven, the other to hell. Farocki uses the camera in effect to dissect the picture; he reveals close-ups of the paintings' various motifs, which he underscores with rhymes. This method of breaking down an image with the camera reminds us of similar sequences in his essay films, Wie man sieht and Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges, both from the eighties. (Tilman Baumgärtel)

“The Appearance”
The head of a Berlin advertising agency explains his proposed strategy to his potential client, a Danish optical company. The communication strategy that we ultimately came up with as a basis or any creative act or means of communication has three headings.
The first is 'relevant, not arrogant'; the second, 'varied, not uniform'; and the third is, 'creative, not pushy'. These are essentially translations, strategic translations of your basic requirements and your analysis of the market, as well. (From the transcription of The Appearance)

“The Words of the Chairman”
I was on a ship – this sounds like a novel: I had just embarked for Venezuela on June 2, 1967 as the Shah of Iran was arriving in West Berlin. There were protests, a student was shot, and a new form of opposition movement came into existence. The idea for this film came to me while I was still aboard the ship.
The film is structured like a commercial. The film takes a metaphor literally: words can become weapons. However, it also shows that these weapons are made of paper. The weapon spoiled everything for the Shah and his wife, they are wearing paper bags on their heads with faces drawn on them – the kind of bags worn by Iranian students during demonstrations to hide their identity from the Savak, the Iranian Secret Service.
When I showed this film to the audiences in the late 60s, it was highly praised. I think people understood then that over obviousness is also a form of irony. This capacity was lost a few years later. I think it's coming back today. (Harun Farocki)

“The Taste of Life”
For years I've been looking for the means to capture everyday life just as it is perceived through a glance from the street. Twenty years ago, you could see young people standing with their bicycles on street corners, in fact, if the bicycles where there, you could be sure to find the young people standing there talking.
I would like to document these kinds of events. On this occasion, I was presented with the opportunity to do so. For two and a half weeks, I walked around different parts of the city with my camera and collected images for the film. (Harun Farocki, 1979)

“In Comparison”
Bricks are the resonating foundations of society. Bricks are simply very long-playing records. Like records, they appear in series, but every brick is slightly different – not just another brick in the wall. Bricks create spaces, organize social relations and store knowledge about social structures. They resonate in a ways that tells us if they are any good. Bricks form the basic sound of our societies, but we haven't yet learned to listen to them.
Farocki's film lets our eyes and ears consider different traditions of brick production in comparison – and not in competition, not as a clash of cultures. Farocki shows us various brick production sites in their colours, movements and sounds. (Ute Holl)

“Silver and the Cross”
The work examines the painting Depiction of the Cerro Rico and the Imperial City of Potosí (Oil on canvas, 262 x 181 cm) by Gaspar Miguel des Berrío, 1758, in the Museo Colonial Charcas de la Universidad San Francisco Xavier, Sucre / Bolivia.

“Inextinguishable Fire”
"When we show you pictures of napalm victims, you'll shut your eyes. You'll close your eyes to the pictures. Then you'll close them to the memory. And then you'll close your eyes to the facts."
These words are spoken at the beginning of an agitprop film that can be viewed as a unique and remarkable development. Farocki refrains from making any sort of emotional appeal. His point of departure is the following: "When napalm is burning, it is too late to extinguish it. You have to fight napalm where it is produced: in the factories."
Resolutely, Farocki names names: the manufacturer is Dow Chemical, based in Midland, Michigan in the United States. Against backdrops suggesting the laboratories and offices of this corporation, the film then proceeds to educate us with an austerity reminiscent of Jean Marie Straub. Farocki's development unfolds: "(1) A major corporation is like a construction set. It can be used to put together the whole world. (2) Because of the growing division of labor, many people no longer recognize the role they play in producing mass destruction. (3) That which is manufactured in the end is the product of the workers, students, and engineers." (Hans Stempel, 1969)

“Industry and Photography”
Farocki frequently chooses a single news photo as his pretext. In his film he explains convincingly that 'learning from images' is not so much a question of having power over the image or a consistent subject-position towards the image, which would allow the filmmaker access to complete knowledge. Instead he insists on pursuing photography's separation of reference and discourse, by proving this to be a separation of the subject as well as a separation within the subject itself.
The modern notion of representation, at least that which we owe to cinema, is based on iconicity, similarity and probability. Moreover, it links what is represented to the perceiving subject in an act of opposition, even of confrontation and defines existence as being the process by which one places oneself in relationship to something other, as a form of taking up position, of approach. As a result, the corresponding concept of perception is based on the capacity of images to establish, demarcate and validate a space in which the mise-en scène of a subject can take place.
Farocki doesn't achieve this insight by means of psychoanalytical vocabulary; he contrasts the subject with his own radical 'other'. (Thomas Elsaesser)


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Installation Photos

Click here to view the album of installation photos.