Harun Farocki – Parallele

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Parallele exhibition at gallery Thaddeus Ropac, features the latest works of Harun Farocki, a Berlin-based artist and film-maker. The gallery proposes to explore his previously unseen videos, a four-part Parallele I-IV (2012-2014), a project on which the artist has been working since two years. When entering the exhibition, four screens are projecting his videos, in a dark, small space. The first impression does not promise anything eloquent, but when Farocki’s universe is revealed piece by piece, the strength of his view convinces me.

Parallèle, originally a Latin word (parallelus), means contemporaneous, referring to something that is taking place in another context at the same time,  yet in similar conditions. This is exactly the motif of Farocki’s work: with these projections, he proposes an analysis of another kind of universe, and studies the relations between reality and video games. The artist treats the questions of computer animation, which is becoming a general model in the contemporary society, even surpassing the importance of films.

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

The tour to Harocki’s world starts with an introduction in computer graphics, with the video Parallele I. It shows how the first games, created in the 1980’s, consisted only of horizontal and vertical lines, whereas today’s representations are more oriented towards photo-realism. In this first part, the artist shows how this artificial world is created, how a game designer creates this new world piece by piece. A step from abstraction to concretism.

A female voice, the narrator on each video is accompanying the spectator with her monotonous voice. She demonstrates, how the Egyptians constructed the pyramids and how splendid cathedrals were constructed in the Middle-Ages, however, it was only recently, when a representation in perspective, a 3D model was created… The great accomplishment of a modern man. Another interesting remark is how computer games are starting to fulfil roles traditionally reserved for films. For example, when clouds are floating in the sky, in films this is a consequence of something which is produced either intentionally, or is a result of natural phenomenon. However, in video games this is not the case: the  notion of causality does not exist anymore.

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

Does the world exist if I’m not watching it? inquires the woman when the second film starts. The series continues with Parallele II and III, which are in the search of the boundaries of the game world and the nature of their objects. This computer reality, is finally no more than a theatre stage, and thus, has no real existence. Each of their properties must be separately constructed: the objects have no existence, or if they do have some characteristics, they are assigned to them separately. On the last video, the artist analyses the concept of heroes in video games: how they often live in a world of chaos and anarchy, having no parents or teachers, having to find their own rules to follow in the society.

Indeed, this omnipotence of video game characters is interesting, where does it come from? What surprises me the most, is how the artist succeeds in inviting the spectator to challenge the perception of the world: his study on video games and computer animation is finally like looking in a mirror, and enables the viewer to reflect the question of representation and perceiving images on a more general level, in our universe. When leaving the exhibition, there is only one question in my mind: which model is more reproduced and thus, more authentic in people’s minds: has the reality started to imitate computer animation, or is it vice versa? 

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

The world ends like a board game. The walls are invisible from the inside. The surface of the water is nothing but surface. This world seems infinite. In 2007, Harun Farocki, whose work has had a decisive influence on the history of the political film since the late 1960s, was the first artist and film-maker featured at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Besides over 100 productions made for television and cinema, Farocki – curator, long-time author and editor of the magazine Filmkritik, and visiting professor at Berkeley, Harvard and Vienna – has set out his reflections on the relation between society, politics and the moving picture.

His importance for the visual arts is reflected in retrospectives of his films in institutions such as Tate Modern/London, and solo exhibitions in the MUMOK [Museum of Modern Art]/Vienna, Jeu de Paume/Paris, Museum Ludwig/Cologne and more recently in the Kunsthaus/Bregenz. The significance of his films and installations is demonstrated not least through his participation in the documenta in 1997 and 2007, as well as in the Venice Biennale this year.

Harun Farocki

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

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