Eine Sache, die sich versteht (15x)

Something Self Explanatory (15x)
Hartmut Bitomsky, Harun Farocki
Federal Republic of Germany 1971

27.02.2020 11:00 Eng. subtitles Akademie der Künste
28.02.2020 15:00 Eng. subtitles Akademie der Künste

64 min. German.

Over the course of 15 teaching units, the Marxist vocabulary for commodity and work, wage and labour power, exchange value and use value is thought about via images. The vignettes are captivating in their directness. What they drive at is always unequivocal, as they not only invoke political concepts with precision, but also bring together cinematic modes of thinking that are the equivalent of these concepts: Political position and aesthetic form merge; the didactic procedure leads to a dialectical form, which is expressed in visual montages, camera pans, the division of the image space, the adoption of a perspective. It seems only logical that towards the end, the format of the educational film disappears and the piece takes on the feel of narrative genre cinema: “The intention is to make a person who is walking think about walking so that he falls down.” (Bitomsky and Farocki) (ab)

Hartmut Bitomsky was born in Bremen in 1942. In 1962, he began studying theatre studies, German studies, and journalism at the Free University of Berlin. In 1966, he transferred to the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB), from which he was expelled two years later, along with other fellow students, for political activities. Starting in 1970, Bitomsky worked freelance as a writer, director and producer. From 1974 to 1985, he was an editor of the magazine Filmkritik. His cinematic oeuvre consisted primarily of documentaries and essay films. Bitomsky has also worked as a lecturer at art and film schools since the early 1990s. He was dean of the School of Film/Video at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, before taking up a professorship at the Berlin University of the Arts in 2005. From 2006 to 2009, he was director of the DFFB.

Harun Farocki was born in Nový Jičín, current Czech Republic. From 1966 to 1968, he studied at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin. He directed more than a hundred films for television and cinema. From 1974 to 1984, Farocki was an editor and author of the magazine Filmkritik. Starting in 1996, his films and installations were shown in a large number of solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries. From 2004 to 2011, he was professor for film and art at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Farocki died in 2014.

The Question of the Power Relations of Those Who Struggle. A kind of syllabus by Hartmut Bitomsky and Harun Farocki

Although today hardly anyone still produces commodities on their own account – rather, almost everyone produces commodities on someone else’s account – the consciousness that regards the production of commodities as natural still dominates. The exchange of wage labour resembles the exchange between two independent producers of commodities. This miserable miniature, wherein a worker exchanges “his” labour and a capitalist exchanges “his” money in return, extends the appearance of naturalness. The “fair wage” is a net wherein consciousness, which should transcend the bourgeois form of production, gets trapped and flounders. How can the net be torn apart?
We said that the details can be followed, but that the sum of the details does not make the whole evident. The discourse of the teacher can depict only parts, not the whole.
Only the mind of the learner can do that.
We have therefore produced a text with gaps and have approached the matter from several sides. We have presented economic details, but we have also come up with experiences that have shaped the reality of the law of value in cinema and in life.

Chapter 1: Is the wage fair?
We see that someone who wants to use commodities must acquire them. He can only acquire them if he has something to sell. Most people have nothing to sell except their labour. And so, there is an exchange. The commodity that is labour is traded for money (wages), and the money is used to buy consumer goods.
We ask: When is such an exchange fair?

Chapter 2: When is the exchange of two commodities fair?
What determines the equal value of two commodities? That one person wants what the other has because he needs it is the precondition for trade, but not a precondition for equal value. Because no one will be able to trade a pair of shoes, which he has and does not need, for a house that he might very well need.
There is nothing material about commodities that could simultaneously be inherent to two different commodities and that could therefore function as the basis for equal value.
But labour was expended for both commodities. Labour is what they have in common.
The two Romans cannot find what commodities have in common. They do not work. What lands on their table are not commodities, but use-values, riches. Commodities are the result of private labour. The smith and the farmer compare the labour time they have expended.

First reading:
An exchange of two commodities is therefore just if they are of equal value, i.e. if the same amount of labour time was expended to produce them.

Second reading:
Marx writes that Aristotle could not find the principle according to which the exchange of commodities functioned. He could not find it because the foundation of Greek society was not private labour, but slave ownership. The Romans in our scene are not independent producers of commodities, they are dependent on their slaves’ production. Their society is based on people’s real inequality.

Third reading:
Why doesn’t the smith’s hammer cross the farmer’s sickle? (…)

(Infoblatt No. 18, 1. Internationales Forum des jungen Films, Berlin 1971)

Production company Larabel Film Harun Farocki (Berlin-West, Federal Republic of Germany). Written and directed by Hartmut Bitomsky, Harun Farocki. Cinematography Carlos Bustamante, David Slama. Editing Hasso Nagel. Sound Johannes Beringer. With Rolf Becker, Herbert Chwoika, Norbert Langner, Kurt Michler, Ingrid Oppermann, Falk Rebitzki, Peter Schlesinger, Angelika Wehbeck.


Hartmut Bitomsky: 1967: 3000 Häuser (17 min.). 1970: Die Teilung aller Tage (67 min.). 1975: Auf Biegen oder Brechen (94 min.). 1976: Der Schauplatz des Krieges. Das Kino von John Ford (91 min.). 1981: Highway 40 West (169 min.). 1986: Reichsautobahn (91 min., Forum 1986). 1988: Das Kino und der Tod (46 min.). 1989: Der VW Komplex (93 min.). 1991: Isaak Babel – Die Reiterarmee (27 min.). 1992: Die UFA (88 min.). 2001: B-52 (122 min., Forum 2001). 2007: Staub (94 min.).

Harun Farocki – selection: 1967: Die Worte des Vorsitzenden / The Words of the Chairman (3 min.). 1969: Nicht löschbares Feuer / Inextinguishable Fire (25 min., Retrospective 2002). 1978: Zwischen zwei Kriegen / Between Two Wars (83 min.). 1982: Etwas wird sichtbar / Before your Eyes Vietnam (114 min.). 1986: Wie man sieht / As You See (72 min.). 1988: Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges / Images of the World and the Inscription of War (75 min.). 1990: Leben – BRD / How to Live in the FRG (83 min.). 1992: Videogramme einer Revolution / Videograms of a Revolution (with Andrei Ujica, 106 min.). 1995: Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik / Workers Leaving the Factory (36 min.). 1997: Die Bewerbung / The Interview (58 min.), Stilleben / Still Life (56 min.). 2001: Die Schöpfer der Einkaufswelten / The Creators of Shopping Worlds (72 min.). 2004: Nicht ohne Risiko / Nothing Ventured (50 min.). 2006: Zur Bauweise des Films bei Griffith / On Construction of Griffith’ Films (video installation, 9 min., Forum Expanded 2006). 2009: Zum Vergleich / In Comparison (61 min.). 2012: Ein neues Produkt / A New Product (37 min.). 2013: Sauerbruch Hutton Architekten (73 min.). 2014: Parallele I–IV (2012–2014) (video installation).