Harun Farocki, Serious Games 1, Watson Is Down, 2010, two-channel video, color, 8 minutes.

Harun Farocki

Harun Farocki, Serious Games 1, Watson Is Down, 2010, two-channel video, color, 8 minutes.

FOR OVER ONE HUNDRED YEARS, photography and film were the leading kind of image. From the start they served not only as forms of information and entertainment but also as media for scientific research and documentation. That’s one reason these techniques of reproduction were associated with notions of objectivity and contemporaneity—in contrast to images created by drawing and painting, which signaled subjectivity and the transrational.

Apparently today computer animation is taking the lead. Films already try to imitate video games—which in turn borrow from films. Following the Gulf War in 1991, the US military decided to capture the decisive Battle of 73 Easting not on film but via computer animation.

Computer animation aspires toward the photographic-filmic models of representation, yet with each advance it becomes clear how far it still is from the ideal. In the program Virtual Battlespace 2, which is used by the US armed forces for training purposes, tanks churn up dust when they roll over the ground and no dust when they travel on asphalt. However, they create the same amount of dust whether the terrain is completely overgrown or almost free of vegetation. There is hardly any differentiation between the textures of various depicted objects. Stone can be distinguished from metal, but one stone appears the same as another, and all metals have the same sheen.

These military-training programs are based on real geographic data. One can navigate within the program—walk or drive through the landscape and view it from various arbitrary perspectives. Instructors can plant booby traps or enemies. One can open fire on those taking part in the exercise, and they can fire back. The firing range of weapons is equivalent to the corresponding distance in reality. Such features apparently compensate for the lack of photorealistic representation. A computer animation is not just a likeness but also a data-gadget that makes the fastest possible calculations—and visualizes them immediately.