With his films, Harun Farocki (Czech Republic, 1944) dissects the control, representation and value systems derived from capital and its images. This event, the first of the Intervalos program, shows two recent works, one of which was produced by Museo Reina Sofía, and also includes a lecture by Thomas Elsaesser.
Interval refers to the relationship system based on the montage of fragments that, as it was conceived by Dziga Vertov in 1919, gives meaning to cinema. Intervalos is a new program of projections in either one or two sessions that present contemporary audiovisual creations. The pieces may be Museum productions or works that, somewhere between the performative and the cinematic, convey the new directions of images in movement.
This double session, the first of the Intervalos series, presents two recent films by Harun Farocki, The Silver and the Cross (2010), which was coproduced by Museo Reina Sofía, and Zum Vergleich (In Comparison, 2009), both of which examine the representation of work. The second session consists of a lecture by Thomas Elsaesser, Professor of Film Studies and one of the most renowned experts on Farocki’s films.
With his films, Harun Farocki (Czech Republic, 1944) dissects the control, representation and value systems derived from capital and its images. For over four decades, Farocki has used film, single-channel video and installations to analyse the changing role of work, the new consumption spaces, the relationship between technology, vision and war and the use of documents to narrate history. His filmography has not only renewed the film-essay, it has shown the capacity to articulate critical thinking by looking at the question of the knowledge and the function that images produce.
The Silver and the Cross. 2010, video, 17 min.
Coproduced by Museo Reina Sofía, The Silver and the Cross draws viewers' attention to the painting by Gaspar Miguel de Berrío, as the territory that encapsulates a new world-system based on the logic of accumulation. Like his analyses of goods and contemporary consumption, here the painting Descripción del Cerro rico e Imperial Villa de Potosí (1758) is shown to be a complex mechanism of perception and control, a determining factor in establishing a new order, which the artist attempts to unravel.
Zum Vergleich (In Comparison). 2009,16mm, 61min., original language with Spanish subtitles
This piece compares different building traditions, setting them up as a mirror of different societies. Preceding The Silver and the Cross in its analysis of work, In Comparison shows the production of bricks in different cultures belonging either to the industrialized north or to the Global South, thus giving rise in different contexts to a reflection on the relationship between body, time and community.
Thomas Elsaesser. The Future of Work in the Eyes of the Vision Machines
Harun Farocki’s films and installations since the 1990s have increasingly focused on the question of “work”: first as a category of the economic life, that is: how societies materially produce and ideologically reproduce the means of their survival, and second: how asymmetrical this distribution of labor across the globe has become – or has always been. But equally critical is the future of work as the very condition of what it means to be (and remain) human, when we remember how machines and automation have not only shifted the relation between production and consumption, but also the relation between hands and eyes, bodies and machines. In Comparison and The Silver and the Cross use the gallery installation as the privileged site for an inspection and introspection of the future of work: across the medium of cinema, which itself has mutated from an art that records and discloses, to one that captures, controls and monitors.
Thomas Elsaesser is Professor Emeritus of Film and Television studies at the University of Amsterdam. He has taught at institutions such as Columbia, Yale and the University of Chicago, among others. He is the author and editor of Harun Farocki: Working on the Sight-Lines (Amsterdam University Press, 2004), and also of other publications, such as Filmtheory: An Introduction Through the Senses (Routledge, 2010, with Malte Hagener) and The Persistence of Hollywood (Routledge, 2012).