Critics’ Picks

Harun Farocki, On Construction of Griffith’s Films, 2006, two-channel video installation, color, silent, 9 minutes.


Harun Farocki

Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.)
Chausseestrasse 128-129
September 14, 2017–January 28, 2018

Make no mistake—Harun Farocki’s exhibition here is not the “retrospective” that its tagline would lead viewers to expect. It is only one part of an homage that several Berlin institutions are paying to the great German filmmaker and video artist, who died in 2014. This is the most recent installment in the series of shows that began in 2015––all involving direction or curation by Antje Ehmann (Farocki’s second wife and collaborator) and Carles Guerra––which illuminate specific aspects of the late artist’s vast body of work. This chapter focuses specifically on video installations that analyze the mechanisms of traditional cinema, along with featuring archival materials that shed light on other facets of Farocki’s activities as an actor, political activist, and writer for radio.

That said, the exhibition is far from a routine affair; in fact, the very specificity of its approach produces worthwhile results. The audience that knows Farocki, above all, for his social and political critique of moving images at large, including the modern developments of video games and CCTV, here has an opportunity to see works like Dubbing, 2006, which compares the most famous scene from the 1976 film Taxi Driver (“Are you talking to me?”) to the multiple versions of it dubbed in other languages. On Construction of Griffith’s Films, 2006, scrutinizes, with didactic precision, the presence of thresholds and doors in D. W. Griffith’s films in relation to his editing style. The two multichannel installations, Feasting or Flying, 2008, and War Tropes, 2011, tackle the theme of male suicide in film and the topoi of war films, respectively. As the exhibition title, “By Other Means,” implies, this is meta-cinema created with a foundation of preexisting footage, which Farocki reworked using such techniques as the counterpoint of image and text and the seriality of Conceptual art.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.