In Harun Farocki’s latest work, Immersion (2009), at London’s Raven Row in its current show ‘Harun Farocki. Against What? Against Whom?’, a US soldier from the Iraq war, coaxed on by a therapist and aided by virtual simulation, relives the experience of a reconnaissance mission in which a mistake he committed led to his partner’s death. The film, as does much of Farocki’s astoundingly relevant and astute catalogue of film and media installation work, investigates overlaps between military and industrial production - here, the use of technology pioneered in the video game/entertainment industry to treat post-traumatic stress disorder - and, most importantly, the role of the image in this negotiation.
Farocki has been making films since the late 1960s and can be labelled a critical film-essayist - a broad category drawn to include other European filmmakers such as Straub-Huillet, Chris Marker, Alexander Kluge and Jean-Luc Godard, and, latterly, younger filmmakers such as Hito Steyerl, who were or are invested in film as a mode of political and economic critique, and whose films operate mainly through the montage of footage of different provenance and the collision of word and image. Farocki is perhaps unique among these peers for his insistent focus on the image in its historical and real-world relevance - that is, in aesthetic but also ethical terms - and as a changing site of technology. The intensity of his interest and the breadth of conclusions he draws became all the more clear throughout the course of London’s two concurrent retrospectives devoted to his work this past November. While Raven Row’s program, organised by the foundation’s director, Alex Sainsbury, focused on the multi-screen and installation work that Farocki began making in the mid-1990s, when he began showing in an art world context, Tate Modern hosted a program of his films from 1968 to 2009, curated by Stuart Comer, Antje Ehmann and the Otolith Group, which took an explicitly retrospective stance towards his work. (The majority of the films from this program are available on DVD at Raven Row.)
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