Critics’ Picks

Deep Play, 2007, still from twelve-channel video installation with sound, 2 hours 15 minutes.

New York

Harun Farocki

Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th Street Ground floor and 8th Floor
January 10 - February 9

At CalArts, the film director Alexander Mackendrick often screened a peculiar teaching resource: the Watergate hearings. The live testimonies were “directed,” Mackendrick argued, by broadcasters fluent enough in film’s grammar to edit in real time. Mackendrick analyzed their methods to instruct would-be auteurs in telling stories with images; the exercise is of equal value to those with a critical interest in understanding how the decisions of a few figures off-camera shape perception and establish truths. In Deep Play, 2007, artist and filmmaker Harun Farocki reverses that strategy, not dissecting television’s final product, but rather laying bare its raw materials. Farocki has gathered from numerous sources footage of the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy, an event both widely watched and obsessively recorded. The twelve-channel installation includes clean feeds of the match from multiple angles, with close-ups on individual players and the teams’ coaches, as well as security-camera footage, digital schematics, and instantly calculated statistical information: vector surveys, bar graphs, speed averages. Their resemblance to the color-coded maps and pie charts of election-year demographics is glaring given Fox News’s blended marketing for the Super Bowl and Super Tuesday.

This vast archive for a two-hour contest is both overwhelming and somewhat sinister. (Paul Virilio’s conception of warfare as a “logistics of perception” evidently reverberates in the professional-sports community.) With time, however, this collective drive to capture and quantify every facet of the game reveals its own inconsistencies and gaps. The clean feeds seem to fall out of sync with one another, and computer analysis has no variables for the game’s nuances. A Sims-style rendering of the match represents each player as the same peach-skinned, blockheaded figure, regardless of race or build. And no amount of analysis gives insight into the match’s defining moment, Zinedine Zidane’s head butt of Marco Materazzi. Amid the fallout, the recorded voice of a German broadcasting director hurriedly calls for replays and close-ups from the control booth. Here is an incident that is entirely unscripted, but a mystery that makes for great television.