Magazine article Artforum International

Harun Farocki: MUSEUM OF MODERN ART

Magazine article Artforum International

Harun Farocki: MUSEUM OF MODERN ART

Article excerpt

"Harun Farocki: Images of War (at a Distance)," Farocki's first museum survey in the United States, features thirty-six films, videos, and installations recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. Organized by chief curator of media and performance Sabine Breitwieser, the exhibition offers an illuminating view of the artist's development over the decades, beginning with his emergence in post-1968 West Germany and moving through his subsequent engagements, over some forty years, with filmmaking, writing, editing, and curating. Consistently in his work, Farocki deploys strategies to foreground the discursive constructedness of film and video, applying critical pressure to traditional structures of narrative cinema, questioning ideologies of cinematic authorship, and contesting documentary's claims to objectivity. Paired with footage procured from institutions in the military-industrial-corporate complexes, these maneuvers allow Farocki to examine the politics of representation within late-capitalist scopic regimes--the interpenetrations of mass media, technology, the body, vision, commerce, gaming, surveillance, discipline and punishment, and militarism and war.

The first room of the moma survey includes vitrines displaying a selection of film journals that the artist has contributed to or edited, in addition to a sequence of single-channel monitors presenting 16-mm films and videos, from Inextinguishable Fire, 1969, to Images of the World and the Inscription of War, 1988, to War at a Distance, 2003. These provide context for the room's main attraction: the multiscreen video installation Serious Games I-IV, 2009-10. Composed of four looped parts--each projected onto a separate screen--the work centers on footage taken from (or relating to) computer-generated combat simulations used by the US military, which the artist apparently obtained directly from the military itself (suggesting that transparency can be a PR strategy). Rather than subject us to heavy-handed ideological critique, Farocki allows the appropriated visual materials to speak compellingly for themselves; brief descriptive texts interspersed among the footage provide the only explication. The work's first part. Serious Games I: Watson is Down, 2010, features soldiers at their compater terminals conversing in military jargon, and clips of the simulated battlefield, wherein armored vehicles endeavor to maneuver around LEDs; one of the textual descriptors is the instructor places explosive devices. …

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