Harun Farocki: who is in charge?
Throughout his career, German filmmaker and artist Harun Farocki (1944-2014) crafted a politicized body of work that focused on analyzing the making and circulation of images within contemporaneity. His work, ever more relevant in times of hyperconnection, can be seen on this exhibition, which gathers 15 pieces, from video installations to films, where the artist reflects on the use of diverse imagery – from photography to computer graphics – in the context of social observation and control systems. The selection was done by Antje Ehmann, curator for the Harun Farocki estate, in Berlin, and Heloisa Espada, visual arts curator for IMS.
The exhibition presents an overall take of Farocki's work since the early days of his career in 1964, up until the time of his passing in 2014. With over a hundred films and videos under his belt, the artist was heavily influenced by the political discussions that marked the end of the 60s. A witness to the Vietnam War and the student protests of that time, Harun was an ardent critic of the cultural industry, advocating for, along Jean Luc-Godard and others from his generation, activist, politically-charged cinema. In the 1990s, Farocki started to showcase his work on museums and galleries, becoming a reference in the video art segment.
The exhibition will be presented in two stages. In the first one, IMS Rio presents works that address how different type of images are used in observation and control systems, e.g. pictograms, traffic camera scenes, animations from electronic games, or a tabloid front page photograph. Using these images, Farocki reveals, for example, the connections between the cultural industry and the war industry.
Harun Farocki asks how the pain suffered by napalm victims in the Vietnam War can be depicted and questions the alienation of workers in chemical manufacturers producing lethal weapons. Following the example of the German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, in Nicht löschbares Feuer, Farocki adopts an austere and pedagogical aesthetic, typical of the plays produced by the Soviet regime after 1920 in order to promote communist doctrine in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Snippet of Inextinguishable Fire, film, 25' © Harun Farocki GbR, 1969
Video available only with German audio and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles:
Schnittstelle is Harun Farocki’s first video installation for a visual arts exhibition. It was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art of Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France. They requested from the artist a work about his own creative process, to be included in the exhibition Le monde après la photographie [The World After Photography].
Farocki reflects on the process of editing pre-existing images, taken by others or by himself. The artist talks about how two images interfere with one another when shown simultaneously, as on a video editing workstation, or in sequence. In Schnittstelle, the artist, who returned many times during his career to reflect on labor and its influence on human relations, analyzes his own craft.
Snippet of Interface, video installation, 23' © Harun Farocki GbR, 1995
Catch Phrases, Catch Images
Harun Farocki talks with philosopher Vilém Flusser about the role of the photographs on the cover of the German tabloid Bild Zeitung. Flusser discusses the interdependence between text and image and explains how the texts also assume the role of the image. The two men met when Flusser’s work Towards a Philosophy of Photography was published, a work which was to have an impact on the filmmaker’s later works.
Snippet of Catch Phrases, Catch Images. A Conversation with Vilém Flusser, film, 13' © Harun Farocki GbR, 1986
Video available only with German audio and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles:
Serious Games I: Watson is Down
Harun Farocki shows a training session at the us Marine Corps Base 29 Palms military base, in California, United States, in October 2009. Four marines sit in a classroom, in front of four laptops, and simulate a tank crew operating in Afghanistan, using a program that resembles a video game. The simulation is constructed using real geographic data, reproducing the trees and mountains as found in Afghanistan.
Snippet of Serious Games I: Watson is Down, video installation, 8' © Harun Farocki GbR, 2010
Serious Games II: Three Dead
Filming again at the us Marine Corps Base 29 Palms, Harun Farocki follows the training program on an urban film set built in the Californian desert. The goal is to prepare soldiers for combat in civilian environments in Afghanistan and Iraq. The activity included around 300 extras recruited from amongst Iraqi, Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani immigrants.
Snippet of Serious Games II: Three Dead, video installation, 8' © Harun Farocki GbR, 2010
Video available only with Brazilian Portuguese subtitles:
Serious Games III: Immersion
Scenes of a lecture and a workshop with the participation of us military and civilian psychiatrists on the use of a virtual reality program for the treatment of war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The scenes were filmed at the Institute of Creative Technologies, a virtual reality development center in Fort Lewis, Washington State.
Snippet of Serious Games III: Immersion, video installation, 20' © Harun Farocki GbR, 2009
Serious Games IV: a Sun with no shadow
Harun Farocki compares the animations of computer-based war training programs with the images in virtual reality programs used to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. He highlights the fact that more money has been invested in the more realistic military training program images.
Snippet of Serious Games IV: a Sun with no shadow, video installation, 8' © Harun Farocki GbR, 2010
Harun Farocki criticizes the way in which foreigners living in the Federal Republic of Germany are represented in diagrams, drawings, graphs and pictograms that illustrate textbooks, newspapers and official publications which tell the story of the immigration in the country.
Snippet of In-Formation, film, 16'© Harun Farocki GbR, 2005
Video available only with German text and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles:
In this essay on the contemporary city, Harun Farocki compares images from surveillance cameras – graphics, digital models and urban monitoring systems – with scenes from Dziga Vertov’s film Chelovek s kino-apparatom (1929) [Man with a Movie Camera] and Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (1927) [Berlin, Symphony of a Metropolis].
Farocki filmed Gegen-Musik after being invited to participate in the exhibition La ville qui fait signes [The City that Makes Signs], in Lille, France, in 2004. The film’s French title, Contre-chant [counterpoint] is a wordplay on the expression “Contrechamp” [shot reverse shot or shot/countershot] used in film making to describe the technique where both a shot and a reverse shot of the same scene are filmed.
For Farocki, the city of today is governed as a production system, turning them into machines to live and work.
Snippet of Counter Music, video installation, 23' © Harun Farocki GbR, 2004
Harun Farocki traces a history of graphical animation techniques from its beginning, in the 1980s, when it was only possible to represent natural elements with vertical and horizontal lines, to the present decade, when the images are becoming ever closer to photo realism. The artist inserts computer animation into the story of art and tries to understand how the images became a model, surpassing both the photograph and the film.
Snippet of Parallel I, video installation, 16' © Harun Farocki GbR, 2012
Parallel II and III
Parallel II and III reflect on the perception of space and objects in computer graphics. Farocki compares the artificial worlds of games to floating turntables and a theater stage. He shows that the objects designed for the games are empty, unconnected with their own world.
Snippet of Parallel II, video installation, 9' © Harun Farocki GbR, 2014
Snippet of Parallel III, video installation, 7' © Harun Farocki GbR, 2014
In the last work of the series, Farocki examines the gestures, attitudes and appearance of the characters that are the protagonists of electronic games. In isolating the heroes from the context of the game, the artist exposes the human dimension represented by their technical limitations and by the apparently banal challenges which they face.
Snippet of Parallel IV, video installation, 11' © Harun Farocki GbR, 2014