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EYE MACHINES: THE ART OF HARUN FAROCKI

LONG BEFORE HIS DEATH this past summer at the age of seventy, Harun Farocki had come to occupy a unique place in the history of postwar cinema, his films irreconcilable with either the narrative or the documentary tradition. Among the greatest artists to have arisen from the New German Cinema of the 1960s and ’70s, he remains, nonetheless, one of its least known. In hopes of casting light on Farocki’s crucial and unremitting interrogation of the image and of the ethics of seeing, Artforum invited scholar D. N. Rodowick to reflect on this singular filmmaker’s contribution to contemporary culture.

Harun Farocki, Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges (Images of the World and the Inscription of War), 1988, 16 mm, black-and-white and color, sound, 75 minutes. © Harun Farocki Filmproduktion.

IT WAS A WARM SUMMER NIGHT in Berlin when the unthinkable happened—we ran out of beer. The occasion was an informal dinner to introduce Harun Farocki and his wife, Antje Ehmann, to friends who run a gallery in the city. It is a testament to Farocki’s generosity and grace, and to his belief that no significant moment should go unrecorded, that he allowed me to make a short film on the spot, Harun, who only drinks beer, has a glass of wine (2011). Inasmuch as history runs in rhythms that are as uneven as they are contingent and unpredictable, something Farocki also believed, how could we have known that he would be lost to us precisely three years later, on July 30, 2014?

HARUN FAROCKI was one of the most prolific and important artists to emerge from the loose grouping of postwar German filmmakers today known as the Oberhausen generation, after the 1962 manifesto that famously

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