Exhibition // Harun Farocki’s “Serious Games” at Hamburger Bahnhof

Hamburger Bahnhof’s latest exhibition doesn’t show new work from Harun Farocki, but the videos’ direct political criticisms are still just as relevant. The exhibition Serious Games consists mostly of tandem short videos. Though they all differ in their narratives, most depict soldiers: some playing video games as training, while others have video game scenes inserted between documentary-style footage (although the video was shot on military exercise grounds).

Plainly, violence is the largest theme. The director himself describes the visual effects of Three Dead (2010): “It looked as though we had modelled reality on a computer animation.” The juxtaposition between video game and real footage stings by pointing out the element of spectatorship in war. It is sickening to see a soldier in a video game gun down men, but it’s also disturbing to recognize oneself as a passive participant in the horror, as depicted in the context of the exhibition.

But when the shooting starts in Three Dead, people are just sitting down to eat a meal at outdoor picnic tables. Though some immediately flee, one man lingers behind, slowly climbing out of the picnic bench and grabbing his cup of coffee before moseying to safety. Though the man was an actor and many of the other videos show exercises or simulations, it doesn’t seem to matter. We have seen and read about so many of the horrific aspects of war that we have established a baseline for violence. Many are aware of the viewpoint that Farocki pushes, but his meticulous editing hammers the message home.

Additional Information

“Ernste Spiele I: Watson ist hin” – HARUN FAROCKI
Exhibition: Feb. 06 – Jul. 13, 2014
Invalidenstraße 50-51 (click here for map)

Blog entry by AJ Kiyoizumi in Berlin; Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

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