Harun Farocki (Nový Jičín, Czech Republic, 1944) studied in the German Film and Television Academy, Berlin (DFFB) but was expelled in 1968 for political reasons. An essayist and filmmaker, Farocki has also produced screenplays for various films and television productions and his work has been exhibited in diverse international retrospectives and gained recognition through a number of awards.
Farocki's early films are defined by ideas on cultural revolution, for instance those formulated by the Left, at the time increasingly more radical, and are patently developed as an effective medium for the dissemination of political propaganda. While his educational and politically-minded films raise awareness and provide an analytical framework, his subsequent output is made up of independent films, essays and documentaries that demand a more active reception from the viewer. Therefore, the documentaries deliberately steer away from any interpretation of the events depicted whilst also presenting daily life in a lucidly visible manner and revealing a hidden capitalist logic.
Similarly, his cinematographic essays arise from the questioning of the use of cinema as a pictorial medium. Via montage and the deliberated composition of materials, found or intentionally filmed, Farocki invokes a subtext that opens up contexts of technical, socio-political and cultural meaning in the production, distribution and reception of images. Furthermore, his work explores the interactions of historical processes and their representation in the media. From the end of the Nineties onwards, Farocki increasingly focuses on creating video pieces for exhibition purposes, such as the Documenta X in 1997. His most recent installations deal with the instrumentalisation of the camera as a tool of supervision and control in civil and military environments.
The two-screen installation I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts (2000), presented in Espacio Uno in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, calls into question the connection between architecture, society and the method of disciplining individuals. The video shows guards firing at prisoners that are fighting in a prison courtyard of a high-security jail in the USA; the firing zone simultaneously appears in the field of vision of both the cameras and those shooting. It was produced exclusively for the Generali Foundation exhibition Things we do not understand, in Vienna.