Harun Farocki 1944-2014

It is with great sadness and a deep sense of loss that we learn of the death of filmmaker, writer and video artist Harun Farocki on July 30th, 2014 at the age of 70. Internationally known for his political films since the late 1960s, and for his video installations since the mid-1990s, Farocki has been an especially powerful voice in recent years, patiently and with pointed wit reading the images we consume every day, that claim to inform, but more often control and manipulate. A soft-spoken but relentless critic of the militarization of everyday life, of surveillance through simulation and remote control, Farocki made connections where previously we had suspected none, such as between security prisons and shopping malls, or he saw how the role-playing training sessions of a marketing team resemble the emergency drills of ambulance crews.

Farocki regarded images as realities in their own right, and he respected the life they had captured, while detecting also strategies of resistance and refusal in what otherwise might seem a mere depiction of everyday life. Respite, his analysis of Rudolf Breslauer’s film material shot in Westerbork in 1944 is exemplary in this respect, repeating scenes, in order to place them in a different context and so reveal unexpected levels of meaning. At other times, the multiple monitors in the gallery space served Farocki as so many entry points into an action, whose linear flow simultaneously unfolded as a network of abstract, but interconnected relations: Deep Play, shown at documenta xii, took the World Cup Final 2006 between Italy and France, and documented how behind the game that thrilled millions, data was being gathered on players’ speed, ball possession, distance covered, and several other variables, as if the game was merely the pretext for testing parameters of performance, to be processed afterwards.

Over the past two years, Farocki had used his extensive international travels to conduct workshops with young people in different parts of the world, asking them to record the changing conditions of work in their locality and community. “Labor in a Single Shot,” curated in collaboration with his partner Antje Ehmann, will be shown at the Museum Folkwang in Essen, beginning August 16, and subsequently tour in the United States.

In 2005, Amsterdam University Press published the first comprehensive overview of Farocki’s work in English titled Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight Lines. Edited by Thomas Elsaesser, the monograph emulates Farocki’s own prismatic view of the world by offering multiple critical perspectives, while still conveying the director’s extraordinary consistency across his vast body of work. The volume is complemented by interviews with and a selection of writings by Farocki himself, offering unique insights into this pioneering artist, his political ethics and incisive intelligence.

Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-lines is available as book and e-book: http://en.aup.nl/books/9789053566350-harun-farocki.html and can be downloaded via Open Access at the following address: http://www.oapen.org/search?identifier=340227.