November 2017, arsenal cinema

Harun Farocki: Year by Year / Side by Side (3)

DER AUSDRUCK DER HÄNDE, 1997

Three years after Harun Farocki's sudden death in summer 2014, the versatility and consistence of his nearly 50-year career are undeniable. Between 1966, the year in which he started studying at the newly founded "Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin" (dffb), and 2013, Farocki shot numerous cinema films and television programs, wrote film criticism and numerous, often polemic texts that carried out diagnoses of their respective eras, taught at universities and film and art schools. From the 90s onwards, he was increasingly regarded as an installation artist and theoretician of the image. Farocki's work can be emphatically understood as comprising a theory, critique, and politics of myriads types of images, but also exemplifies precise analyses of working processes in an era of the progressive mechanization of both production and seeing. The spectrum of his interventions ranges from agitation-focused, pamphlet-like films about self-reflexive, associative, open forms all the way to reserved, patient observational studies. "Year by Year/Side by Side" is the most comprehensive retrospective of Harun Farocki’s cinema and television work to date. Alongside the exhibition "Harun Farocki: Mit anderen Mitteln – By Other Means" (curated by Antje Ehmann and Carlos Guerra) at the neuer berliner kunstverein, the temporary "Farocki Now" academy organized by the Harun Farocki Institut at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the silent green Kulturquartier (October 18th-21st) and the recent publication of his incomplete autobiography, the program gives audiences a chance to become acquainted, or reacquainted, with the documentarian's oeuvre and all the many directions it points in. Numerous productions thought lost or seldom shown were able to be researched in archives and brought together. The retrospective suggests "Two Ways" (which is the title of Farocki's first ever film) through his work. Under the title "Year by Year", all of Farocki's cinema and television productions currently accessible are being showing in the order in which they were made. The second series is called "Side by Side" and takes place in parallel to the chronologically programmed one and borrows the name of an exhibition by Farocki in order to reveal the specific references that hold together a body of cinema and television work that spans nearly 50 years. Each program is accompanied by introductions or conversations with colleagues, friends and co-workers of Farocki.

Year by Year: 1992–2013

KAMERA UND WIRKLICHKEIT (Camera and Reality, with Andrei Ujica, 1992, 21.11.) Farocki and Ujica discuss the visual material of the 1989 Romanian revolution they used for "Videogramme einer Revolution" in a round table discussion with Andrei Plesu, Romania’s first cultural minister after the revolution, and media scholars Friedrich Kittler, Manfred Schneider, and Peter M. Spangenberg.

EIN TAG IM LEBEN DER ENDVERBRAUCHER (A Day in the Life of a Consumer, 1993, 22.11.) A collage of adverts is used to create a fictional daily routine in the life of the German consumer: from brushing one’s teeth in the morning to waking up at night for fear of not having adequate insurance.

DIE UMSCHULUNG (Retraining, 1994, 22.11.) shows how East German employees are taught sales techniques by a West German trainer and reveals “what was set up in East Germany after 1989: a training camp for the market economy in which techniques for self-representation are learnt” (Stefan Reinecke)

DIE FÜHRENDE ROLLE (The Leading Role, 1994, 22.11.) examines images of the Fall of the Berlin Wall that were broadcast on East and West German television between October 10 and November 25, 1989. 

ARBEITER VERLASSEN DIE FABRIK (Workers Leaving the Factory, 1995, 22.11.) One of the first motifs in all of cinema – the workers leaving the factory – is traced through the whole of film history by Farocki. Images of strikes and gatherings of unemployed people before factory gates speak of the labor disputes of the past; in the present, it’s surveillance cameras that provide the dominant images.

DER AUFTRITT (The Appearance, 1996, 25.11.) An advertising agency presents a campaign to a client. “In the advertising sector, a linguistic expression is discussed in greater detail than in a poetological seminar and a visual motif is expounded upon at greater length than in an iconographic study.” (HaF)

DIE BEWERBUNG (The Interview, 1997, 25.11.) School dropouts, the long-term unemployed, and managers attend courses to learn how to extoll their virtues to potential employers. In role plays, they rehearse like actors playing themselves, walking the tightrope between fitting in and retaining their own personalities.

STILLLEBEN (Still Life, 1997, 26.11.) How are objects from daily life depicted in art and advertising? Farocki makes a comparison between the Flemish still life paintings of the 17th Century and advertising photos from the present.

DER AUSDRUCK DER HÄNDE (The Expression of Hands, 1997, 26.11.) “The first close-ups in film history were aimed at the human face, the next ones at the hands. Hans are often supposed to reveal something which the expressions of the face seek to hide; such as, when a hand crushes a glass without any trace of agitation being visible in the face.” (HaF)

WORTE UND SPIELE (Words and Games, 1998, 26.11.) A look at the apparatus behind the scenes of talk shows: “The most important raw material of this industrial branch, which is so new that its costs and supplementary costs, profits and additional profits cannot yet be reliably predicted, are everyday human beings. They are cheap and want to come to the fore, but do they have visual appeal?” (HaF)

GEFÄNGNISBILDER (Prison Images, 2000, 27.11.) links together surveillance images from prisons with images from film history. “Cinema has always been attracted to prisons, today prisons are full of video cameras for surveillance purposes. These images are unedited and of a standard format and do not condense time and space, which makes them particularly suitable for expressing the lack of events to which the prisoners are supposed to be subjected as a punishment. The surveillance images show the norm and rely on deviation from it.” (HaF)

DIE SCHÖPFER DER EINKAUFSWELTEN (The Creators of the Shopping Worlds, 2001, 27.11.) Supermarkets and shopping centers are meticulously planned to optimize the buying behavior of their customers. In discussions about the aesthetic effects and profit calculations, Farocki observes the complex decision-making processes between architects, clients, and analysts.

ERKENNEN UND VERFOLGEN (War at a Distance, 2003, 28.11.) Taking the first public images ever shot with the cameras built into guns in 1991, the film illuminates the relationship between industrial production and military strategy.

NICHT OHNE RISIKO (Nothing Ventured, 2004, 28.11.) A two-day negotiation about the awarding of risk capital: haggling is all about the right performance, about sophisticated deception, threats, and provocations.

AUFSCHUB (Respite, 2007, 28.11.) consists of historical footage of the Westerbork transit camp, which were shot by internee Rudolf Breslauer in 1944 at the request of the camp commandant and remained an unedited fragment. A reflection about the substance and intention of images.  

ZUM VERGLEICH (In Comparison, 2009, 29.11.) shows people in Burkina Faso, India, and Europa producing bricks and using them for building. The smallest units of construction and the different ways in which they are created are offered up for comparison without commentary.

EIN NEUES PRODUKT (A New Product, 2012, 29.11.) Before flipcharts containing brightly colored scribblings, a consultancy firm creates new working worlds for the planning of new buildings. “Farocki’s film shows that alongside computer simulations of space, their work consists of searching for new words that the companies being advised can use to portray their staff and clients as modern.” (Volker Hummel)

SAUERBRUCH HUTTON ARCHITEKTEN (Sauerbruch Hutton Architects, 2013, 29.11.) An observation of working processes at a Berlin architecture office by way of six projects at different stages of development.

 

Side by Side: Agitation, Teaching, Learning

The eight “Side by Side” programs in November focus on Farocki’s ongoing interest in carrying out and describing learning and communication processes, which began in the early 70s. It’s about didactics, pedagogy, communication, and ideas with regard to their respective cinematic conception.

Learning to See Images: All his life, Farocki was interested in developing forms of learning and teaching based on film. The series he conceived with Hartmut Bitomsky about "Audiovisual Codes", or AUVICO (1970) for short, only had two pilot episodes actually produced and is about the codes of the language of film. DIE TEILUNG ALLER TAGE (1970), which was also made with Bitomsky, is an educational film too. Marx’s economic theory is explained in didactic fashion. Concrete examples always form a part of Farocki’s didactics. The way in which abstract theory can be transferred into cinematic representational objects is also the subject of SCHLAGWORTE – SCHLAGBILDER. EIN GESPRÄCH MIT VILÉM FLUSSER (1986), in which an everyday object, the front page of the "Bild" newspaper becomes the subject of philosophical, technology historical reading. (20.11., with guests Tom Holert und Ute Holl)

Vietnam in Mind: Since NICHT LÖSCHBARES FEUER (1969), Farocki has returned to the Vietnam War and its meaning again and again. Its exemplary investigation of napalm production made it into an important film of the Vietnam movement and is regarded by many as a model for an aesthetically considered “political film”. In WHAT FAROCKI TAUGHT (1998), Jill Godmilow takes its teachings literally as the model for a highly detailed remake, which re-appropriates the film nearly 30 years later for later political struggles. Creischer, Siekmann, Strau, and von Wulffen also carry Farocki’s model into the present day world of Berlin rent speculation in their plasticine figure animation film DIE KRUMME PRANKE (1997). (23.11., with guests Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann).

Filmkritik Magazine: Between 1974 and 1984 (when the legendary magazine was forced to fold), Farocki was one of the editors of “Filmkritik” magazine, which writer Rainald Goetz once called “the central organ of tough young thought”. “Filmkritik” was closely linked to the film editorial team of WDR, which cross-financed the magazine by way of commissioning television reports. In May 1981, “Filmkritik” created its own program called “KINO 81”. In 1983, they created a collective commentary entitled “L’ARGENT“ VON BRESSON” (with Hartmut Bitomsky and Manfred Blank). Farocki’s reviews of film books old and new in 1986’s FILMBÜCHER also belongs to this production context (24.11., with guests Jörg Becker, Manfred Blank, Ralph Eue and Bert Rebhandl).

Children’s Programs: Between 1973 und 1977, Farocki produced reports for children’s television, sometimes together with Hartmut Bitomsky. The two-part program of short films for the programs “Sesame Street” and “Sandmännchen” demonstrate their formal diversity. In these films and EINSCHLAFGESCHICHTEN, the focus is on forms of economic and technical traffic, on the surplus value theory derived from Marx, but above all on everyday objects and their functions: ships, bridges, trains, as well as hammers, saws, and diggers. Miniatures that take an astonished view of the world and its relationships, driven by a thirst for knowledge (25.11., with guests Anna Faroqhi and Stefanie Schlüter)

Agitation: In IHRE ZEITUNGEN (1968), Farocki reacts to the central political events of 1968 - the anti-Springer campaign and American war crimes in Vietnam – with an agitation film shot as a form of political work. Helke Sander and Carlos Bustamante, who studied with Farocki at the dffb, show similar interventionist means of politicization. Sander’s BRECHT DIE MACHT DER MANIPULATEURE (1968) documents the campaign conducted by Farocki and others to disturb the Federal Press Ball in Berlin. Bustamante’s DE OPPRESSO LIBER (1968) is an agitprop film pamphlet edited in pulsing staccato. (25.11., with guests Helke Sander and Carlos Bustamante)

Working – At the Television Station: The program collects several new discoveries from Farocki’s oeuvre that are directly or indirectly linked with his work for television. FAROQHI DREHT (1967) is an early “making of” by director Irena Vrkljan. If funding had been granted, AUVICO (1970) would have become a media educational TV series. REMEMBER TOMORROW (1972) and MODERATOREN IM FERNSEHEN (1974) demonstrate the sheer scope permitted by television of this era. The magazine report FILMBÜCHER (1986) as well as the short EINFÜHRUNG ZU „KUHLE WAMPE“ (1986) and FILMTIP „TOD DES EMPEDOKLES“ (1987) were supervised by WDR editor Werner Dütsch. (26.11., with guest Werner Dütsch)

Building Bridges/Books: One of the recurring motifs in Farocki’s work is images of bridges and books as objects to convey certain ideas. Both motifs come together in WIE MAN SIEHT (1986), his essayistic, constellational film on image, war, and traffic technologies and their progressive computerization. The books which truly inspired him (including Hannah Arendt’s “Vita active”) themselves appear as members of the film team in the credits - just like in EINSCHLAFGESCHICHTEN: BRÜCKEN (1977), produced for the children’s program “Sandmännchen”, where the objects receive the status of actors via the use of childish, infectious typology. (30.11., with guest Anselm Franke)

The Rules of the Game: From Ein Bild (1983) onwards at the latest, Farocki carried out observations of the present in the style of an understated direct cinema, which examines social transformations by observing institutionalized teaching and education practices. DIE SCHULUNG (1987) and DIE UMSCHULUNG (1994) document seminars for optimizing employees with a gap of seven years between them. Farocki’s main interest here is the techniques supposed to be transferred from the seminar head to each individual participant: in the learning of body language, gestures, and facial expressions, psychology and modern capitalism come together (30.11., with guest Thomas Elsaesser) (mba/al)

“Harun Farocki: Year by Year/Side by Side”, a program by Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art and the Harun Farocki Institute. It forms part of the Harun Farocki Retrospective, a neuer berliner kunstverein (n.b.k.) project in cooperation with Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video Art, the Harun Farocki Institut, the Harun Farocki GbR, the silent green Kulturquartier, the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Savvy Contemporary and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt as part of Berlin Art Week, supported by the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.