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Serious Games: Harun Farocki’s War at a Distance and Serious Games I-IV

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Goethe-Institut Washington

1990 K Street Northwest

#03 (Entrance 20th St. lower level)

Washington, DC 20006

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Film

Wednesday, September 11, 6:30 pm

Goethe-Institut Washington

“Serious Games”: Harun Farocki’s War at a Distance (Erkennen und Verfolgen) (2003) and Serious Games I-IV (2009-2010)

An introduction to the film will be provided by Zach Feldman, PhD candidate in Comparative Media and German Studies at Vanderbilt University. A discussion will follow the screening.

Various cinematic genres and movements over the years have laid claim to truth in cinema — the actualités of the Lumière brothers, Kino-Pravda espoused by Dziga Vertov, the “ethnofiction” anthropological films of Jean Rouch, and the “ecstatic truth” of Werner Herzog’s documentaries are but a few examples. Although the documentary is still a viable cinematic genre, many filmmakers have now expanded the range of their practice to create works that cross between art and anthropology, documentary and fiction, education and entertainment, and galleries and movie theaters.

Serious Games: Documentary Art between Fact and Fiction explores a cross section of documentary practice by German filmmakers and artists focusing on the subject of war and conflict. Blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, these works also demonstrate the fluidity of exhibition practice between the black box of the cinema and the white cube of the gallery. Presented in association with the National Gallery of Art, with special thanks to Zach Feldman for organizing the program.

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War at a Distance (Erkennen und Verfolgen)

Directed by Harun Farocki. Germany, 2003, 54 min., in German with English subtitles.

Under what Harun Farocki has termed “operational images” (having neither entertainment nor informational value), the processes of factory production and battlefield attacks are distanced from human experience by extending the access of vision. As suggested by the film’s German title Erkennen und Verfolgen (Recognize and Track), War at a Distance depicts alienation from both manufacturing and weaponry by way of operational images and autonomous computer-assisted image processing replacing human labor.

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Serious Games I-IV

Directed by Harun Farocki. Germany, 2009-2010, 46 min., in German with English subtitles.

Serious Games I – IV, Harun Farocki’s four-part multichannel installation, begins with a computer-generated video game used to train soldiers for armed conflict and concludes with a virtual reality therapy session. Usually displayed as a gallery installation, the films screened here in a theatrical setting demonstrate how instructional videos and games are utilized for the human conditioning required in fighting wars. Farocki invites viewers to consider how the same images are used as didactic tools for both military training and psychological counseling.

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Harun Farocki was born Harun El Usman Faroqui in 1944 in Nový Jicin (Neutitschein), at that time Sudetengau, today Czech Republic. His father, Abdul Qudus Faroqui, had immigrated to Germany from India in the 1920s. His mother was German, and had been evacuated from Berlin during the Allied bombing of Germany. After the end of World War II, Farocki grew up in India, Indonesia, and Hamburg. In 1966, Farocki was admitted to the Berlin Film Academy (DFFB) and studied there until 1968. Farocki was deeply influenced by Bertolt Brecht and Jean-Luc Godard, and began making films that were non-narrative essays on the politics of imagery. Between 1974 and 1984, he edited the magazine Filmkritik. Throughout the 1990s, Farocki taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and later was a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He died in July 2014 at 70 years old.

Zach Feldman is a PhD candidate in Comparative Media and German Studies at Vanderbilt University. As an intern at the National Gallery of Art in 2018-19, he organized this film screening as a part of a larger series in collaboration with the NGA and the Goethe Institut DC entitled, Serious Games: Documentary Art between Fact and Fiction. Zach will be a visiting PhD candidate at the Freie Universität Berlin for the 2019-20 year to support his dissertation research, which investigates the intersection of documentary film and contemporary video art installation.

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Goethe-Institut Washington

1990 K Street Northwest

#03 (Entrance 20th St. lower level)

Washington, DC 20006

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