(1944 – 2014), Czech Republic

Harun Farocki Biography

The German filmmaker, video artist, theorist and writer Harun Farocki is known for his politicised film-essays, in which he assembles found and original footage to explore issues such as the power of images, the intersections between war and technology, and the role of labour in capitalist society. With a background in drama, sociology and journalism, and influenced by the work of Bertolt Brecht and Jean-Luc Godard, he completed film studies at the German Film and Television Academy, Berlin (1966-68). In addition to producing over 100 films for television and cinema, Farocki—an author, editor of the magazine Filmkritik, curator, and visiting professor at Berkeley, Harvard and Vienna—has shaped the discourse surrounding politics, the moving image, and the politics of images.

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The intersections between technology and war played a decisive role in works such as Eye / Machine (2000-03) or Serious Games (2009-10), in which Farocki relates these to conditions of economic production. He sees human agency as increasingly replaced by computers in war and industry alike, with the natural functions of the eye being taken over by machines in both situations. A similar replacement of human labour by mechanical processes can be seen in his later works such as Comparison via a Third (2007) and Re-Pouring (2010). In his films, Farocki uses the devices of split-screen, soft montage and repetition to suggest relationships between images, but leaves these open to interpretation, inviting viewers to draw their own conclusions.

The ongoing workshop Labour in a Single Shot (2011—) was initiated by Farocki and his partner, curator Antje Ehmann, who collaborated on a number of projects since the late 1990s. Referencing the Lumière brothers' La Sortie de l'usine Lumière à Lyon (1895), an early film that shows workers leaving a factory in Lyon, they used the same device of a single camera shot to explore the subject of labour. Over the course of four years, they travelled to 15 major cities where they produced over 400 short films with local video artists and filmmakers. Together, this mosaic of films visualises work in the 21st century in all its variety and complexity.

Farocki was born in 1944 in Neutitschein, an area in the Czech Republic that had been annexed by Germany at the time. He lived and worked in Berlin for over 40 years, decisively shaping the history of the political film since the 1960s. The gallery had the privilege of working with him for almost a decade before his death in 2014, and continues to foster his artistic legacy. Farocki's first film created for a museum setting, Schnittstelle (1995), marked a turning point in his career and his work has since been the subject of major institutional exhibitions, including at the Instituto Moreira Salles, Rio de Janeiro (2019); National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Seoul (2018); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2017); Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin (2017); Fundacío Antoni Tapìes, Barcelona (2016); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2014); Kunsthaus Bregenz (2010); Tate Modern, London (2009); and mumok, Vienna (2007), among others.

Text courtesy Thaddaeus Ropac.

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