80 Washington Square East, NYU

Harun Farocki

April 8 – July 15, 2018

at Anthology Film Archives

Harun Farocki was born in 1944. He lived in India and Indonesia before moving with his family to Germany at age 10. In his early twenties, he left for West Berlin to further his studies in cinema, and spent most of his working life there. By the time of his death in 20 naturalist of loss. One’s ability to forget what they do not want to know, to overlook what is before them, was seldom put to the test better than in Germany’s reconstruction after the Second World War. The writer W.G. Sebald said that postwar Germany was ‘an almost perfectly functioning mechanism of repression.’ Farocki, on the other hand, did not sweep things under the rug. His work, often graceful in its observations, was never far from the injury of our world. ‘He was endlessly patient,’ Antje Ehmann wrote, “with the strangeness, the beauty, the stupidity, and even the unbearable cruelness of our world.”

His films often track the effects that free markets, war, and their attendant technologies have on the individual. His films invariably reflect on the methods we use to construct and distribute images and the uses to which these images are put. Frequently, he went to places of focused production – a prison, a virtual reality facility used to train soldiers, a commercial photo shoot – and managed to describe the abstractions, the rules, the exercises and negotiations of power behind the surface of such images. About his method, Farocki once remarked, ‘My maxim was: I tell a company that the movie is an advertisement for what they are doing and tell the TV station [Farocki’s employer] that the film is a criticism of this practice. And try not to do either one or the other.’

Commissioned by Nicola Lees and organized by Lucas Quigley and Dismantling Injustice. The films and images have been provided by the Estate of Harun Farocki and Greene Naftali Gallery, New York.

Screenings are on Sundays at 2pm at Anthology Film Archives 343 East 2nd Street, New York NY 10003 except where noted.
April 8
In Europe in the fall of 1989, history took place before our very eyes. Farocki and Ujica’s Videograms shows the Romanian revolution of December 1989 in Bucharest in a new media-based form of historiography. Demonstrators occupied the television station [in Bucharest] and broadcast continuously for 120 hours, thereby establishing the television studio as a new historical site. Between December 21, 1989 (the day of Ceaucescu’s last speech) and December 26, 1989 (the first televised summary of his trial), the cameras recorded events at the most important locations in Bucharest, almost without exception.
(Harun Farocki) 
April 15
The five Einschlafgeschichten are bed-time stories for children, made 1976/77, in which Farocki uses simple objects to elucidate cinematographic method. […] The stories deal with bridges, cable cars and ships crossing roads. What is worth saying? What is worth remembering? The two girls in the film imagine what is shown. Bridges that move. Something quite different to 'bridges'. […] As if pictures could think! Einschlafgeschichten doesn't really speak of bridges or railroads but rather of two girls filling the space between daytime and dreamtime with a poetic game, an endless game, a game with no end. A game which can fade out without becoming fragmentary. "Are you asleep?", one of them asks at the end of a clip – and the final shot is of the two, asleep; the game is over. The girls are played by Lara and Anna, Farocki's daughters.
(Hans J. Wulff)

[This] is an action-filled feature film. It reflects upon girls in porn magazines to whom names are ascribed and about the nameless dead in mass graves, upon machines that are so ugly that coverings have to be used to protect the workers’ eyes, upon engines that are too beautiful to be hidden under the hoods of cars, upon labor techniques that either cling to the notion of the hand and the brain working together or want to do away with it. My film As You See is an essay film. The contemporary opinion industry is like a huge mouth, or maybe a paper shredder. I compose a new text out of these scraps and thus stage a paper-chase. My film is made up of many details and creates a lot of image-image and word-image and word-word relationships among them. So there’s a lot to chew on. I searched for and found a form in which one can make a little money go a long way.
(Harun Farocki)
April 22
The five Einschlafgeschichten are bed-time stories for children, made 1976/77, in which Farocki uses simple objects to elucidate cinematographic method. […] The stories deal with bridges, cable cars and ships crossing roads. What is worth saying? What is worth remembering? The two girls in the film imagine what is shown. Bridges that move. Something quite different to 'bridges'. […] As if pictures could think! Einschlafgeschichten doesn't really speak of bridges or railroads but rather of two girls filling the space between daytime and dreamtime with a poetic game, an endless game, a game with no end. A game which can fade out without becoming fragmentary. "Are you asleep?", one of them asks at the end of a clip – and the final shot is of the two, asleep; the game is over. The girls are played by Lara and Anna, Farocki's daughters.
(Hans J. Wulff)

I filmed games, because games have rules and establish rules. There are all too few rules determining the speech and actions of people in documentary films today. […] The plasticity of life and work processes decreases everywhere. At the same time, more and more games are played which are intended to expose what lies hidden within human beings. The rules by which we are supposed to live are increasingly uncertain, and there are more and more games where life is trained, like a sport. Instruction manuals for life: in the commodity society, the instruction manual is the only record of theory.
(Harun Farocki)
April 29
The five Einschlafgeschichten are bed-time stories for children, made 1976/77, in which Farocki uses simple objects to elucidate cinematographic method. […] The stories deal with bridges, cable cars and ships crossing roads. What is worth saying? What is worth remembering? The two girls in the film imagine what is shown. Bridges that move. Something quite different to 'bridges'. […] As if pictures could think! Einschlafgeschichten doesn't really speak of bridges or railroads but rather of two girls filling the space between daytime and dreamtime with a poetic game, an endless game, a game with no end. A game which can fade out without becoming fragmentary. "Are you asleep?", one of them asks at the end of a clip – and the final shot is of the two, asleep; the game is over. The girls are played by Lara and Anna, Farocki's daughters.
(Hans J. Wulff)

[Images of the World and the Inscription of War] focuses on the ‘blind spots’ in the interpretation of aerial photographs taken during an American bombing raid in 1944 of an industrial plant in Germany. Only decades later, when the photos were analyzed by the CIA, was it realized that the Auschwitz concentration camps were also captured in these images. Farocki shows the links between war and photography, exploring how perception during times of conflict is conditioned by what people want or don’t want to see, rendering observers as either passive accomplices or victims in times of war.
April 29
The five Einschlafgeschichten are bed-time stories for children, made 1976/77, in which Farocki uses simple objects to elucidate cinematographic method. […] The stories deal with bridges, cable cars and ships crossing roads. What is worth saying? What is worth remembering? The two girls in the film imagine what is shown. Bridges that move. Something quite different to 'bridges'. […] As if pictures could think! Einschlafgeschichten doesn't really speak of bridges or railroads but rather of two girls filling the space between daytime and dreamtime with a poetic game, an endless game, a game with no end. A game which can fade out without becoming fragmentary. "Are you asleep?", one of them asks at the end of a clip – and the final shot is of the two, asleep; the game is over. The girls are played by Lara and Anna, Farocki's daughters.
(Hans J. Wulff) 

Four days spent in a studio working on a centerfold photo for Playboy magazine provided the subject matter for my film. The magazine itself deals with culture, cars, a certain lifestyle. Maybe all those trappings are only there to cover up the naked woman. Maybe it’s like with a paper-doll. The naked woman in the middle is a sun around which a system revolves: of culture, of business, of living! (It’s impossible to either look or film into the sun.) One can well imagine that the people creating such a picture, the gravity of which is supposed to hold all that, perform their task with as much care, seriousness, and responsibility as if they were splitting uranium.
(Harun Farocki)

Farocki shows that organizations have found ways and means to speak positively using cynicism; that means, using phrases whose emptiness one not only perceives, but even takes into account. One could speak of a second order cynicism, which entails being cynical about one’s own cynicism and gaining a language that communicates that one only trusts it because one doesn’t trust it, and knows oneself in this mistrust to be of one mind with all one’s counterparts. One could be tempted to extol this as a further case of the social, not entirely conscious refinement of communication, if it were not clear how much it compels the participants into an infantilization, from which they see no escape.
(Dirk Baecker)
May 13
According to 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.” Farocki illustrates this intriguing hypothesis with three documentary sequences that show the photographers at work creating a contemporary “still life”: a cheese-board, beer glasses, and an expensive watch.
May 20
Images from the maximum-security prison in Corcoran, California. A convict attacks another, upon which those uninvolved lay themselves flat on the ground, their arms over their heads. They know what comes now: the guard will call out a warning and then fire rubber bullets. If the convicts do not stop fighting now, the guard will shoot for real. The pictures are silent, the trail of gun smoke drifts across the picture. The camera and the gun are right next to each other. The field of vision and the gun viewfinder fall together…
(Harun Farocki)

This video, a diptych of two side-by-side images, analyzes the towns, workers, and silver mines of Potosí, Perú, during the period of Spanish colonization. With a landscape painting by Gaspar Miguel de Berrios (Bolivian, 1706-62), Farocki discusses the brutal process by which Spain colonized the Incan empire by enslaving its people, extracting its resources, and monopolizing its silver industry. As Farocki exclaims, “On the mountain the cross; in the mountain the silver ore. The Spanish colonists brought the cross and took away the silver.”

Farocki sits at a desk watching two video monitors and explaining his editing process in a monotonous fashion: how to edit with film, how to edit with video, how to pause and play and loop and repeat. […] "The image comments on the image," says Farocki, pointing at each of the television screens. The images on these screens come from film footage, though rather than a series of operational images it is Farocki’s own work.
(Conor Bateman) 
Thursdays, May 24, 9:15 pm / May 31, 7 pm  
(Early Films of Harun Farocki as part of 1968 on Screen)
The Campaign Volunteer deals with the development of a young trainee lawyer and FDP (Free Democrat Party) supporter who becomes a revolutionary.” 
(Klaus Kreimeier)

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.
(Harun Farocki)

A political film rooted in the 1968 student campaign against the Springer press group, which controlled popular dailies such as the Berliner Zeitung and the Bild Zeitung.

One of Farocki’s earliest works, this film looks at the impact and manufacture of napalm, the deadly chemical weapon used frequently during the Vietnam War, and brings to the surface the hidden relationships between labor, industry, and destruction.
May 27
I wanted to make a film about concomitance, and about contemporary production on a range of different technical levels. So I looked for an object that had not changed too much in the past few thousand years. This could have been a shoe or a knife, but a brick becomes part of a building and therefore part of our environment. So the brick appears as something of a poetic object. I follow its mode of creation and use in Africa, India, and Europe. The issue of labor and production is something I’ve often pursued. In recent years I’ve made a number of films about the immaterial work we find in our own postindustrial countries. My work is also quite immaterial.
(Harun Farocki)
June 3
In [this film] we picked a sequence from Griffith’s Intolerance (1916). It shows a dialogue between a man and a woman, filmed and edited as shot and counter shot. We reproduce the shot on two monitors to reveal its narrative character and also because analysis requires us to dissect something. The narrative form of shot/counter shot, which would later become the norm for depicting dialogue in film, remains novel here. A few years earlier Griffith had still used tracking shots to tell his stories. In The Londale Opertaor (1911), cuts were made only when the scene changed; a cut in the movie’s story line. In Intolerance, cinematography had already achieved such a level of independence that it was the camera that constituted a room with its detail.
(Harun Farocki)

The four-part cycle Parallel deals with the image genre of computer animation. Computer animations are currently becoming a general model, surpassing film. In films, there is the wind that blows and the wind that is produced by a wind machine. Computer images do not have two kinds of wind. Parallel I opens up a history of styles in computer graphics. The first games of the 1980s consisted of only horizontal and vertical lines. This abstraction was seen as a failing, and today representations are oriented towards photo-realism.
(Harun Farocki)
June 10
[Remember Tomorrow Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life] is composed of shots of an AFN DJ at work…and of a car ride, whereby the camera points out of the car (through the windscreen or the side windows) or it captures and tracks a passing car.
(Gero Günther) 

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)

The make-up artist Serge Lutens is shown covering a model’s face with powder then working it into her face over several minutes. The face becomes a canvas, primed for painting. Flesh is turned into something different, looking like marble. It seems as though life has to be frozen in order to achieve beauty.
(Harun Farocki)
June 17
Historically, the cinema close-up was initially employed to convey emotions through facial expressions. But soon filmmakers also began focusing their attention on hands. Using film extracts, Farocki explores this visual language, its symbolism, Freudian slips, automatisms, and its music. Often, hands betray an emotion which the face tries to dissimulate. They can also function as a conduit (exchanging money) or witness to a form of competence (work).

Workers Leaving the Factory – such was the title of the first cinema film ever shown in public. For 45 seconds, this still-extant sequence depicts workers at the photographic products factory in Lyon owned by the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière hurrying, closely packed, out of the shadows of the factory gates and into the afternoon sun. Only here, in departing, are the workers visible as a social group. But where are they going? To a meeting? To the barricades? Or simply home? These questions have preoccupied generations of documentary filmmakers. For the space before the factory gates has always been the scene of social conflicts. And furthermore, this sequence has become an icon of the narrative medium in the history of the cinema. In his documentary essay of the same title, Farocki explores this scene right through the history of film. [...] His film shows that the Lumière brothers’ sequence already carries within itself the germ of a foreseeable social development: the eventual disappearance of this form of industrial labor.
(Klaus Gronenborn)
June 24
A film composed of images from prisons. Quotes from fiction films and documentaries as well as footage from surveillance cameras. A look at the new control technologies, at personal identification devices, electronic ankle bracelets, electronic tracking devices. The cinema has always been attracted to prisons. Today’s prisons are full of video surveillance cameras. These images are unedited and monotonous; as neither time nor space is compressed, they are particularly well-suited to conveying the state of inactivity into which prisoners are placed as a punitive measure. The surveillance cameras show the norm and reckon with deviations from it. Clips from films by Genet and Bresson. Here the prison appears as a site of sexual infraction, a site where human beings must create themselves as people and as workers.
(Harun Farocki) 
July 1
In 1991, when images of the Gulf War flooded the international media, it was virtually impossible to distinguish between real pictures and those generated on a computer. This loss of bearings was to change forever our way of deciphering what we see. The image is no longer used only as testimony, but also as an indispensable link in a process of production and destruction. This is the central premise of War at a Distance, which continues the deconstruction of claims to visual objectivity Harun Farocki developed in his earlier work. With the help of archival and original material, Farocki sets out in effect to define the relationship between military strategy and industrial production and sheds light on how the technology of war finds applications in everyday life.
(Antje Ehmann) 
July 8
Serious Games I: Watson is Down
In the autumn of 2009 we filmed a drill at the Marine Corps Base 29 Palms in California. Four Marines sitting in a class represented the crew of a tank. They had laptops in front of them on which they steered their own vehicle and watched others in the unit being driven through a Computer-Animation Landscape. The simulated Afghan is based on geographical data out of Afghanistan. A street in the computer landscape runs exactly as it would in the real Afghanistan; the same holds for every tree, the vegetation on the ground or the mountain ranges. […] Even with all this attention to detail, death in the computer game is still something different than the real one.
(Harun Farocki) 

Serious Games II: Three Dead
Again, in 29 Palms, we embarked on an exercise with around 300 extras who represented both the Afghan and Iraqi population. A few dozen Marines were on guard and went out on patrol. The town where the maneuver was carried out was on a slight rising in the desert and its buildings were made from containers. It looked as though we had modeled reality on a computer animation.
(Harun Farocki) 

Serious Games III: Immersion
For this video installation Farocki visited a workshop organized by the Institute for Creative Technologies, a research center for virtual reality and computer simulations. One of their projects concerns the development of a therapy for war veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Immersion continues Farocki’s exploration of the use of virtual realities and games in the recruiting, training, and now also therapy for soldiers.

This chapter considers the fact that the pictures with which preparations were made for war are so very similar to the pictures with which war was evaluated afterward. But there is a difference: the program for commemorating traumatic experiences is somewhat cheaper. Nothing and no-one casts a shadow here.
(Harun Farocki)
What venture capital, or VC for short, actually means is explained in the film itself. Banks only lend money against collateral. Those who have none have to turn to VC companies and pay interest of 40%. At least. We had filmed scenes at a wide range of companies: VC companies discussing projects; entrepreneurs seeking to give shape to their ideas; consultants rehearsing their presentation. In the end we restricted ourselves to just one set of negotiations and used the material shot over two days. What tipped the balance for me was hearing the lawyer for NCTE, the company seeking capital say, ‘We are a little disappointed by the offer.’ I felt myself transported into a Coen Brothers film. The protagonists in our story film are sharp-witted and filled with a desire to present themselves.
They are negotiating the conditions for the loan of 750,000 Euros. After initially failing to reach an agreement, they sidestep to a general discussion about strategic issues. It emerges that NCTE, a manufacturer of contactless torque sensors, is already in negotiations with a number of large companies. And this ignites imagination, the world is full of possibilities and weighing them up becomes a joy.
(Harun Farocki)