In the 1970s and 80s, the feature films Harun Farocki made contributed to theorizing essay-films, a cinema genre that juxtaposes archival images of different sources (news, film industry) with voiceover commentaries. More specifically it is a critical and political approach to the image that has characterized his oeuvre since the start, a point of view on the connections between war, technology and capitalism. In 1969, he makes one of his first films in 16mm called Inextinguishable Fire in which he appears as a TV presenter reading out the testimony of a Vietnamese victim of a Napalm attack. The subsequent images are like an educational documentary, an austere thesis on the origins of napalm production and the involvement of workers, students and engineers in what was largely used as a weapon against civilians. Years later, for the trilogy Eye/Machine (2001-2003), Farocki collects sequences filmed during the Gulf War, like images from projectiles, juxtaposed with images produced by machines made for surveillance, recognition and localization. The art historian Hal Foster describes Farocki’s work like a genealogy of ‘visual instrumentalization’ following the evolution of image technologies and their roles in power struggles and the exercise of control. At the beginning of the 1990s he begins to imagine double projections that were presented in cinemas and soon in galleries and institutions that could easily adapt to this mode of projection. The evolution of the forms of presentation and distribution of his work explains his presence in various economies and most recently that of the art market.
Harun Farocki was born in 1944 in Neutitschein, Czech Republic. He lived and worked in Berlin where he passed away in 2014.