Harun Farocki and spatial installations

Author Nora Alter compares Harun Farocki’s film montage to Theodor Adorno’s essay schema. In her reading, both artist and theorist juxtapose different elements to form a context, a “force field” where the reader/viewer can see (read/gaze) associations that are suggested and not mandated. Adorno’s “constellation” takes place in writing, following a linear logic, while Farocki uses the medium of film and installations in the space of the gallery.

Alter claims that Farocki’s two-channel installations challenge the nature of the viewer’s reception, since the single channel mode (cinema and TV) would impose a “monocular, technologized vision”. The two-screen projection would “open spaces for thought, interpretation and reflection, demanding new modes of reception”.

Image from "Comparison via a third"

All the works at Raven Row exhibition are described by the gallery as “video”, not installations. In fact, “Feasting or Flying” and “Workers leaving the factory in eleven decades” can be considered spatial installations, since the several TVs employed add a “concrete aspect” to the work, and demand a certain circulation of the viewers, which should choose a position in space from where to look at the screens, and decide which ones they’ll look at first. Also, the TVs are put under or above eye level, and challenge the monocular reception since there are many simultaneous scenes being shown.

The other works, however, are just projections (two-screen or single screen) in the wall. The mode of reception is similar to the one we experience in a movie theater. Unlike films we watch at the cinema, their projection is in loop, so it’s up to the viewer to sit and watch the video as many times as desired – the same operation we can perform while reading an essay (going back and forth to read a paragraph and grasp a concept). Maybe Alter considers this to be a “new mode of reception”. But works like “Transmission” do not make use of the space of the gallery in a different way and perhaps could be experienced at home on a TV without losing much of its impact and meaning.

“Comparison via a third” is a two-screen projection which is shown at a rather large scale at the gallery wall. But is the bigger scale that relevant to the reception of the work? Does it contribute to inform (or impress) the viewer? Can both works be seen as 3 dimensional installations which successfully “engage” with the space of the gallery?


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