Harun Farocki “Against What? Against Whom?”
Raven Row, London. 19.11.09-07.02.10
Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki Feasting or Flying, 2008. Video, 6 screens, 24 minutes
Visual essay is a multi-dimensional work, with image and audio tracks, voice over, intertitles, etc. As Alter says, these create “complex levels of meaning that the audience must co-produce”. Harun Farocki adds another dimension by presenting his work on several screens which compete for our attention, with themes on them coinciding, contrasting and creating a whole in a way that successive images on one screen could not. The viewer must decide, which screens to look at, in which order and for how long. Farockis video installations are, in Alter’s words,“demanding new modes of perception”. No two viewers actually see the same thing.
Using 6 screens in Feasting or Flying allows simultaneity of images, so we can see parallel motifs from different films, like opening doors, walking down the road, seaside, a gun. This ties the clips together on one another level besides the suicide of the hero, and gives the work certain fluidity.
Feasting or Flying is not a commentary on real life suicides, as all the clips are from fiction films. So this work is about images in our culture, or even just in film. It left me with a question “So what?” Maybe it’s because film is not really my language. For most part, it seemed just a mechanical collection. We were to find our own individual meanings of the piece ourselves. There was no commentary, no justification. Besides the film clips, only few quotes from the films appeared on screens. Even those seem fragmentary; nothing relating them to one another.
The title of the piece “refers to film scholar Helmut Farber’s remark that ‘some dissect birds in order to eat it, others in order to discover how to fly’” (Exhibition leaflet). Farocki and Ehmann dissect film in order to help us to discover… what? Even the title of the exhibition is in a question form, although it suggests Farockis work is protest, defiance against something.
Margaret Gray writes in her review of the exhibition (http://www.thisistomorrow.info/viewArticle.aspx?artId=187 ) that its point is the detachment: “The modern world is overloaded with information, technology, and images. They have become our primary means of navigating and controlling the world, but our reliance on them simultaneously puts us at a remove from it.” So this work might be about suicide after all – showing us how detached these clips are from the reality, it makes us, in a reverse kind of way, think about reality and our relationship with it in a modern world.
One after another, screens turn black (or red), creating a pause before the videos loop, a silence, a finality – or maybe it’s a symbol of the limited possibilities of film format to depict the drama of suicide?