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Harun Farocki · Screening Farocki

March 9, 2011 8:00 pm

Beirut art center is happy to present a series of screenings of films by filmmaker and artist Harun Farocki. The screenings are taking place on the occasion of Farocki’s exhibition, image works, at Beirut art center (February 10 until April 15, 2011).

Part 1.
Wednesday March 9 at 8pm

Inextinguishable fire
1969. Black & white. 25 min. German, English subtitles

“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: 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.” this last thesis is illustrated with an alarmingly clear image. The same actor, each time at a washroom sink, introduces himself as a worker, a student, an engineer. As an engineer, carrying a vacuum cleaner in one hand and a machine gun in the other, he says, “I am an engineer and I work for an electrical corporation. The workers think we produce vacuum cleaners. The students think we make machine guns. This vacuum cleaner can be a valuable weapon. This machine gun can be a useful household appliance. What we produce is the product of the workers, students, and engineers.” (Hans stempel, frankfurter rundschau, June 14, 1969)

Prison images
2000. Colour and black & white. 60 min. German, English subtitles

This is 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. 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 a workers. In UN chant d’amour by Jean Genet, the guard looks in on inmates in their cells and sees them masturbating. The inmates are aware that they are being watched and thus become performers in a peep show. The protagonist in bresson’s UN condamné à mort s’est échappé turns the objects of imprisonment into the tools of his escape. These topoi appear in many prison films. In newer prisons, in contrast, contemporary video surveillance technology aims at demystification. (Harun Farocki)

Part 2.
Wednesday March 16 at 8pm

Videograms of a revolution
1992. Colour. 106 min. English

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 Ceausescu’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. The determining medium of an era has always marked history, quite unambiguously so in that of modern Europe. It was influenced by theatre, from Shakespeare to Schiller, and later on by literature, until Tolstoy. As we know, the 20th century is filmic. But only the video camera, with its heightened possibilities in terms of recording time and mobility, can bring the process of filming history to completion. Provided, of course, that there is history. (Andrei Ujica)

Part 3.
Wednesday March 23 at 8pm

An image
1983. Colour. 25 min. German, English subtitles

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, a responsibility as if they were splitting uranium. This film, an image, is part of a series I’ve been working on since 1979. The television station that commissioned it assumes in these cases that I’m making a film that is critical of its subject matter, and the owner or manager of the thing that’s being filmed assumes that my film is an advertisement for them. I try to do neither. Nor do I want to do something in between, but beyond both. (Harun farocki, zelluloid, no. 27, fall 1988)

The creators of the shopping worlds
2005. Colour. 72 min. German, English subtitles

Shopping is an everyday cultural act; it is inevitable, taken for granted. Entering into the world of shopping – the world of shopping malls – can be a Dantean voyage into hell or a redeeming ceremony of communion. Everyone is familiar with this experience and knows what a mall looks like. This self-evident phenomenon is, however, the result of a highly complex process. The designing of shopping malls is overseen by an army of planners, managers, and scientists: there are consultants, re-launch analysts, a central association, mall magazines. 6000 guests and laboratories attended an annual convention in Las Vegas at which such questions were investigated as where the gaze of a customer falls and how a ‘spontaneous’ purchase can be induced. Farocki shows how mall producers look at malls when they want to find out, for example, how passers-by move, where they stop, and where they reach for an article. He adds these images to the everyday ones – and gives them a magical charge. (Antje Ehmann)

Part 4.
Wednesday March 30 at 8pm

The words of the chairman
1969. Black & white. 3 min. German, English subtitles

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)

Images of the world and the inscription of war
1988. Colour and black & white. 75 min. German, English subtitles

The vanishing point of images of the world is the conceptual image of the ‘blind spot’ of the evaluators of aerial footage of the ig Farben industrial plant taken by the Americans in 1944. Commentaries and notes on the photographs show that it was only decades later that the CIA noticed what the allies hadn’t wanted to see: that the Auschwitz concentration camp is depicted next to the industrial bombing target. (at one point during this later investigation, the image of an experimental wave pool – already visible at the beginning of the film – flashes across the screen, recognizably referring to the biding of the gaze: for one’s gaze and thoughts are not free when machines, in league with science and the military, dictate what is to be investigated. Farocki thereby puts his finger on the essence of media violence, a “terrorist aesthetic” (Paul Virilio) of optic stimulation, which today appears on control panels as well as on television, with its admitted goal of making the observer into either an accomplice or a potential victim, as in times of war. (Christa blümlinger) one must be just as wary of pictures as of words. There is no literature without linguistic criticism, without the author being critical of the existing language. It’s just the same with film. One need not look for new, as yet unseen images, but one must work with existing ones in such a way that they become new. (Jörg Becker, Taz, 30.01.1989)