HR|RG [Harun Farocki &  Rodney Graham] exhibition took place in 2009 in Jeu de Paume in Paris and gathered two artists for whom the image is the foundament of their practice. This aesthetical combination was organized around four concepts which crisscrossed the work of both Farocki and Graham: Archive, Machine, Editing and Non-verbal. Selected works, left in permanent dialog, presented radically different ways of using and perceiving images. The recto – the visible layer – of artistic images shown through video installations, light boxes with photography, projections and objects done by the artists was obviously radically different. They both turned around the same reflection and research of the other side – the verso – which through an experiment with a convention, a montage, a quotation and a found footage aesthetic could be brought up. A surprising idea of showing works of these two artist together underlined and even stronger extracted their discourses.

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Jericho Beach Tree, Winter. 2007. Rodney Graham, photographie couleur. 180,3 x 226 x 7,6 cm édition de 3 et 1 épreuve d’artiste. Collection Paulo Jorge Marques Simões Santo © Rodney Graham

Harun Farocki, who recently died, was a movie maker, an artist and a theorist of the image. He exposed in his video installations hidden messages existing in the mass media. His works addressed the production and treatment of images and their “existence” in the society[1]. Before the 1990s, when he started experimenting with exhibition space, he had explored the potential of the film and the way it is produced[2]. As he claimed[3], there is no such a thing as a movie language, it is just a question of conventions established by humans. Consistently he put a lot of attention in editing and montage, underlining the difference between these two. The way he “treated” images by editing these already existing, can be clearly noted in his almost classical work from 1969 Inextinguishable Fire[4]a strong critic of Vietnam war and military technologies, especially the napalm use. One of the strongest statement of this movie is the absence of violent images of napalm victims. It is a document which shows its production process. Farocki knows that showing the image will force the viewer to close the eyes and to forget what he just saw. A brutal truth may also close the eyes of the consciousness and lead to deny what is visible. This video addresses directly the verso of the image.

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Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik in elf Jahrzehnten [Sorties d’usine en onze décennies / Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades], 2006. Harun Farocki. installation DVD, 12 moniteurs, 4/3, noir et blanc et couleur, son, 36 min. capture d’écran. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Salzbourg Paris © Harun Farocki

During last two decades Farocki multiplied screens used in his installation and  – as a result –  images were not only juxtaposed in the frame of one movie montage or editing but also in the physical exhibition space. Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades (2006), the work which opened the exhibition in Jeu de Paume, concerns the history of the moving image but also of societies which went through vary political changes. A line of TVs placed on the floor forces the viewer to walk along, to repeat the movement shown in the screen. This experience pushes the spectator away from a basic perception of the recto, similarly to other works shown in Jeu de Paume. The technological image from military simulators, industrial cameras etc. – series Eye/Machine I, II, III (2000) – creates a visual archive of images surrounding a human in the contemporary world. The spectacular installation Deep Play (2007) consists of numerous projections of a football match recording taken from different points of a stadium. Here a TV camera footage and its content – a movememnt of players, its composition – is analyzed by a softwere. The viewer has an access to this process, which “pollutes” the image with scientific data.  This added layer deconstructs the visual, the representative meaning of the images, the recto. Farocki admitted[5], that he couldn’t even see the game during the recording, as he was so occupied with his work. Paradoxically this statement evoked the object of Deep Play, which is not a match, but the verso of a visual material.

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Dance!!!!! 2008 Rodney Graham. 2 caissons lumineux en aluminium peint montée avec diapositives chromogènes, photographie préparatoire 279,5 x 181,5 x 18 cm chaque panneau 279,5 x 368 x 18 cm l’ensemble édition de 4 et 1 épreuve d’artiste. Collection 101, San Francisco. Courtesy Lisson Gallery, Londres © Rodney Graham

 Farcoki’s strong and analytycal visual statements, seleceted for Jeu de Paume, faced there ironical and full of humor works by Rodney Graham. This Canadian artist experiments with form and devices which can “produce” art. He reaches the tradition of a music, the Hollywood cinema and re-contextualizes  objects connected with the  image  creation. Light boxes Dance!!! (2008 ) or Paradoxical Western Scene (1997) draw directly from western movies, where the main character – here the artist himself – is a caricature of one of typical personages usually included in plots about the wild west. The famous video Vexation Island (1997) shows Graham’s particular approach to the montage – it is almost absent. Movie material treatement is done on a necessary minimal level. It is mostly based on looping the footage than dynamic and fast movie editing. What is more, the idea of myse-en-abyme is actively present in Graham’s oeuvre. Through direct cultural references Graham emphasizes his idea of the verso of images. By observing the image creating devices – not only projectors – he is disclosing a physiology of a human perception and a mechanism which determine a human-machine relation. Photographs of old oaks, hanged upside down, refer to very first experiments with the projected images possible by camera obscura technique. The reversed image appeared within this simple device, certainly changed the human perception of the visual. Graham plays with an obsolete nature of camera obscura constructing his own mobile version of it set up in a carriage (Camera Obscura Mobile, 1995-1996).

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Deep Play 2007 Harun Farocki, installation vidéo, Béta numérique transféré sur mpeg, 12 projections, 4/3, couleur, son, 2h. 15 min. capture d’écran. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Salzbourg Paris © Harun Farocki

HR|RG [Harun Farocki &  Rodney Graham] exhibition could be visited as a double retrospective, which on an aesthetical level creates an interesting narration. It also brings the viewer much deeper, to a duble nature of the image,  composed from a visual representative layer and invisible one, including what is behind it, the recto/verso. This phenomena, impossible to be experienced physically, is rather reachable through an intellectual process, fed by the cultural  capital and memory. The montage or skilful combinied conventions facilitate this machnism of understanding. The medium of the exhibition itself, perceived as a visual discourse, gives the opportunity to juxtapose the images: as artworks and references to other disciplines. Within the context build in HR|RG exhibitionthe images taken and reworked by both artists created tensions between these different perspectives evoked second layers. The rectobrought  the verso up through the montage, experiment, references, auto-analyze and selection of medium.


Camera Obscura Mobile, 1995-1996 Rodney Graham, teck, métal, couverture en toile PVC, lentille de verre et écran 143 x 193 x 114 cm. Collection Fonds régional d’art contemporain de Haute-Normandie, Sotteville-lès-Rouen © Rodney Graham

[1] I. Kurz, Harun Farocki. Ostrość widzenia, Dwutygodnik nr 86 (2012)
[2] T. Elsaesser, Harun Farocki: Film-maker, Artist, Media Theorist,
[3] video interview on HR|RG :
[4] whole video is avaible here:
[5] W. Albiński, Demiurg Harun Farocki,


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