Eye Machine

Against What? Against Whom?

London, United Kingdom
Harun Farocki
November 19, 2009–February 7, 2010

Exhibition view, Harun Farocki, Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades, 2006, Video, 12 monitors, photography by Marcus J. Leith, courtesy of Raven Row.












Raven Row exhibition review by Renata Mandić

Employing film material as a tool for examining both pictorial and social structures, Harun Farocki combines archive film images with his own film footage by means of a direct‐cinema montage. The visual material and text inserts from the commentary are split up between the two projectors in varying combinations, related but separated. This juxtaposition of image and commentary is principle of essayistic montage that encourages a form of double viewing. In Eye/Machine III, Farocki structures material around the concept of the operational images read by war technicians, inter-cut with scene segments of footage produced by ‘intelligent weapons’, security cameras and automated assembly–line footage, opening the piece with an actual aerial footage of a bombing in the First Gulf War. Pictures were filmed and transmitted from US gunship helicopters and airplanes on a mission, showing the ‘view’ of their targets right up until the moment of impact. Cold electronic display is pixelated presentation of outside reality with basic position information (longitude & latitude). This graphical interface of cockpit is only connection that pilot has with its surroundings; he is isolated from exterior, from reality that he produces below. He is immersed in virtual presentation through this ‘artificial eye’ and he is completely dependent on technological superstructure that allows him to find ground targets by online image processing. War is conducted entirely through images. In ‘War and Cinema’ Paul Virilio quotes W. J. Perry, a former US Under‐secretary of State for Defense, as saying “once you can see the target, you can expect to destroy it”. Virilio adds: “For men at war, the function of the weapon is the function of the eye”. However “what is known is not all there is to be seen, and that is seen is not all there is to be known” as Thomas Elsaesser remarked. Distance between the pilot and the battlefield is created by means of graphical interfaces that basically allow viewing of reality only through virtual representation. Graphical interface is different from television and leads to cyberspace, it is an object in itself, which renders a different, virtually distorted reality. Civilians are not seen at all, they literally become invisible. All we are left with stains and geometrical grids. No humans, no story, no drama, no war. In a way, the subject is closer to cyberspace than reality. Jean Baudrillard made thought provoking remark about the historically unprecedented conjunction of military force and spectacle during the Golf War, describing it as the first war to be closer to a video game then to war.