Exhibition text

Harun Farocki (born 1944, living in Berlin) has been making films since 1967. Alongside Marker and Godard he has developed what can be called the film essay. Farocki's work shares qualities with the literary essay, as refined in eighteenth century London by Hazlitt and Lamb. Such essays are more poetic than academic. They are not dogmas but like works in progress, using digression to switch lines of thought.


Farocki's films often describe how technological societies produce images to increase the efficiency of consumption, social control and war. While his early films were polemical, influenced by Brecht - in his best known, Inextinguishable Fire, 1969, he explains that the war in Vietnam cannot be adequately represented in images - his later films such as Images of the World and the Inscription of War, 1988, digress associatively (often with a dry humour) leaving arguments open-ended.


In common with other avant-garde filmmakers, funding and distribution for Farocki's work have become ever more precarious. His entry in to the art world in the mid-nineties was therefore pragmatic. However, he has developed two-screen and later multi-screen works specifically for art institutions, writing (with his sometimes collaborator Antje Ehmann) that 'we see the exhibition space...as a cutting room, a laboratory for cinema'. He describes how, with two screens, one image can comment on another, lending montage an extra dimension: 'There is both succession and simultaneity, the relationship of one image to the next as well as to the one alongside it'. Digression occurs less in the two-screen than in the single-screen works, but as there are a greater number of connections between images, the contruction of arguments remains open.


As well as an output of over one hundred works, Farocki has written prolifically about film. He is an intensive researcher, with an almost forensic attention to the details of film history. He is also as canny as any documentarist, finagling his camera into difficult places (corporate board rooms, US military bases). And he is pragmatic like a filmmaker, making single-screen films from two-screen works and occasionally vice versa (returning to past material exemplifies his self-reflexivity), and not fixating on the way his work is presented. So he is happy to imagine the domestic spaces of Raven Row as his temporary cinema.