Harun Farocki was born in Nový Ji?ín (Czech Republic) in 1944. Between 1966 and 1968 he studied film at the Deutsche Film und Fernsehakademie in Berlin. He made his first film in 1969. Since then he has directed almost a hundred full-length features and documentaries for cinema and television. He is also the author of sound pieces and a large number of critical writings. From 1973 to 1984 he was editor of the magazine Filmkritik, the most influential film magazine in Germany. He has also taught: from 1993 to 1999 he was professor at the University of California at Berkeley, from 2000 to 2001 at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, and since 2004 he has been visiting lecturer at the Akademie für Bildende Künste in Vienna.

Despite the diversity of his production, his work is associated with art house cinema. Politics, economics and aesthetics mingle so that his films become theoretical studies of contemporary society characterized by an intense sociopolitical content and by their critical approach. To do that he analyses the techniques of control in our society through themes like military technology, industry, jails, revolutions or concentration camps. In his pieces he reuses material, combines archive images, institutional videos, industrial films or home movies, instruction videos or video surveillance tapes which were originally made for specific purposes such as teaching practical tasks, productive work, training techniques or quality control. In the cutting room he juxtaposes these images, combines them with filmed sequences and gives them a new meaning. He thus manipulates their original function in the same way that others may do with information which has already been altered, to expose the distortion and control to which we are submitted in the image era.

The use of archive material is common in his work, such as in Videograms of a Revolution (1992) or Workers Leaving the Factory (1995). And an analysis of advertising images too, as in Still Life (1997) where he shows an advertising image not as a reflection of desire but as creator of desire which quickly offers an object. In The Creators of Shopping Worlds (2001) he uncovers the structures of thought which are behind consumer strategies. As in his earlier works, his method consists of showing a technique which exudes an ideology, in this case one with unquestionably totalitarian roots. He has developed a kind of ordering of the images which enables him to discover the ideology that underlies technique, or the way in which technique in turn is capable of generating new structures of thought. His work could be classified the analysis of societies made by Foucault, since his films question the Punishment, Discipline and Control Society through investigation of the image.

Farocki shows the extent to which the human eye loses the capacity to discern genuine images. Since Inextinguishable Fire (1969), one of his first shorts made around May 68, he has used film as an instrument to interpret reality politically. In Images of the World and Inscription of War (1988) he deals austerely and seriously with looking at an image, discovering the meaning of what we see before us and its implications. In Images of Prison (2000) he delves into the image as an instrument of submission and control. And in one of his latest works, about the 1991 Gulf War, Eye / Machine I-III (2001-2003) which can be see in the MACBA Collection, he shows how military visual technology has penetrated civilian life.

Visit the ongoing display
A single image can bear witness to the past and anticipate a foreseeable future.
Ignasi Aballí