From Guerrilla Cinema to Essay Film to Video Installations: Harun Farocki's Practices

Wednesday, June 29, 2011, 6:00–8:00 p.m.

Theater 3 (The Celeste Bartos Theater), mezzanine, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building

MoMA presents a panel discussion in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition Harun Farocki: Images of War (at a Distance), Farocki’s first comprehensive solo exhibition in a U.S. museum. Introduced and moderated by Sabine Breitwieser, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, the panel includes Harun Farocki; Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri, artists and two of the organizers at 16 Beaver, New York; and Tom McDonough, Associate Professor, Philosophy, Interpretation & Culture, and Comparative Literature, Binghamton University.

The panel discussion draws on the title of Tilmann Baumgärtel's book Vom Guerillakino zum Essayfilm: Harun Farocki Werkmonographie eines Autorenfilmers (b_books, Berlin, 1998), in which the author contextualizes the artist’s work in post–World War II West Germany and analyzes his practice departing from the “agitation” characteristic of his early “educational films” and “realization” in his subsequent “author films,” developing toward a practice of “documentation” in “observation films,” and ultimately to “reflection” in Farocki’s “essay films.” We will extend this discussion to the museum and gallery context, for which Farocki has been producing video installations for 17 years. Continuing the dialogues opened up by Farocki’s work and practice, the panel discussion centers around questions such as: What prompts a filmmaker to become interested in the museum and gallery system?, What do we learn from Farocki’s prolific body of work?, and, How does the nature of Farocki’s essayistic and experimental documentary change amid the constantly shifting role of media in contemporary society? Participants will speak from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives to examine the ways in which Farocki’s work continues to generate new meaning.


Harun Farocki is an author, filmmaker, and curator. He studied at the German Cinematic and Television Academy (dffb) in Berlin, from which he was expelled in 1968 for political reasons. Since 1966 he has created over 100 productions for television and film. Since 1995 he has become increasingly involved in the exhibition context, produced video installations for a gallery setting, and had numerous group and solo exhibitions in museums and galleries. Farocki is also a prolific writer; from 1974 until 1984 he was the author and editor of the influential journal Filmkritik (Munich) and has also published his writings in Trafic (Paris) and other magazines. Other publications include Speaking about Godard, New York/Berlin (with Kaja Silverman, 1998–99), Cinema Like Never Before (ed. with Antje Ehmann/Generali Foundation, 2006), Serious Games. War I Media I Art (ed. with Beil/Ehmann/Mathildenhöhe, 2011). From 1993 until 1999 he was visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2004 Farocki became a guest professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, and in 2006 he was appointed full professor.

Sabine Breitwieser is the Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art at The Museum of Modern Art. From 1988 until 2007 she was the Director and Chief Curator of the Generali Foundation in Vienna, and she has curated numerous shows on the history of electronic media in the arts examining the role of media in society, e.g. White Cube/Black Box (1996) and Re-Play (2000). She helped to produce Harun Farocki’s widely discussed video installation I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts (2000) and commissioned the exhibition Cinema Like Never Before, which Farocki curated with Antje Ehmann at the Generali Foundation in Vienna in 2006. Taking on her new post at The Museum of Modern Art, she has spearheaded a comprehensive acquisition of video installations and videos by Harun Farocki as a joint effort of the Department of Media and Performance and the Department of Film.

Ayreen Anastas is an artist living and working in Brooklyn. Rene Gabri is an artist living and working in New York. Last fall, together with Benjamin Young, they organized a series of conversations and screenings at the artist-run space 16 Beaver under the title Something Becomes Visible, engaging with the work of Harun Farocki. Farocki’s work has been a very strong reference point in the practices of a number of individuals related to this space. 16 Beaver Group is an artist community that functions as a social and collaborative space on 16 Beaver street in downtown Manhattan, where the group hosts panel discussions, film series, artist talks, radio recordings, reading groups, and more. The “molecular” seminar at 16 Beaver focused on three criteria of Farocki’s films: (1) Post-1989; (2) Labor, Work, and the Production of Subjects and Objects; (3) Vision, Technology, and the Industrial Production of Destruction.

Tom McDonough is Associate Professor and Chair of Art History at Binghamton University, State University of New York, where he teaches the history and theory of contemporary art. His most recent book is the anthology The Situationists and the City (Verso, 2009); other publications include “The Beautiful Language of My Century”: Reinventing the Language of Contestation in Postwar France, 1945–1968 (MIT Press, “OCTOBER Books,” 2007), and the anthology Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents (MIT Press, “OCTOBER Books,” 2002). He has published regularly in journals such as Art in America, Artforum, Documents, Grey Room, OCTOBER, and Texte zur Kunst. McDonough has been a visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a Getty Postdoctoral Fellow, and a recipient of an Arts Writers Grant from Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation. He is an editor of Grey Room.

In conjunction with the exhibition Harun Farocki: Images of War (at a Distance)

Tickets ($10; members and corporate members $8; students, seniors, and staff of other museums $5) can be purchased online, or at the Museum at the lobby information desk and the film desk.