Places of memory set in stone are the subject addressed by Harun Farocki. Transmission examines the pull and adoration of monuments scattered all over the world that have become goals for pilgrims and tourists and now serve to meet a whole range of different needs, from personal memory to spiritual enlightenment and religious sentiment. Farocki’s journey starts from the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, a wall of black granite engraved with the names of all the 58,249 Americans killed in the Vietnam War. Thousands of people visit it every day, touch the letters and trace the names of family and friends in an attempt to establish a link between their own lives and the past. Other objects of pilgrimage – including the foot of the statue of the Apostle in St Peter’s and the Bocca della Verità in Rome as well as the devil’s footprint in the Frauenkirche in Munich and the monument in the Buchenwald concentration camp – meet the same need for understanding and purification. Stone is the material in which the collective memory of a life or an event in the past is immortalized and becomes an object of worship. At the same time, the memory of thousands of visitors is preserved in the traces of wear it displays.
Harun Farocki’s output for some forty years now has consisted primarily of documentary films and videos about the meaning of technology in modern society and the mechanisms of consumption as well as war and revolution and the image of them presented by the mass media. His primary subjects are the life of images and the media, their power and ubiquitous presence, and the way in which these images are imprinted in everyday life in the way people speak and act, even when there are no TV screens in sight. He examines our social and political reality in his films and reveals the construction and manipulation through which it is shaped. To this end, he often uses original news items presented by the media, contrasting different images to show that no image tells the whole truth but is always part of a much bigger story, a part deliberately selected and interpreted.
In Transmission it is also information presented by the media – from television to tourist guidebooks – that prompts people to visit places that recall important events and figures in history and religion. In the search for meaning and personal happiness in an increasingly confused world, these places are overwhelmed by the ever-greater pressure of their visitors’ needs and thus come to lose their aura.
Harun Farocki (Nový Jičín, now part of the Czech Republic, 1944), one of the most important filmmakers at the international level, has made over ninety films. Retrospective exhibitions of his work have been held at venues such as the Filmmuseum in Vienna, the MACBA in Barcelona, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Kunstverein in Frankfurt, the MoMA in New York and the Swedish Film Institute in Stockholm. He has also taken part in group exhibitions at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art in San Francisco, the Generali Foundation in Vienna, the Kunsthaus in Zurich and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin as well as Documenta 12 in Kassel. A former lecturer at Berkeley in California and the Berlin Art Academy, he now teaches at the academy in Vienna. Harun Farocki lives and works in Berlin.