Since 2015, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) has introduced influential artists in the history of contemporary cinema, presenting their works within the context of art exhibitions. These artists have sought new possibilities for revolutionary film through their ways of contemplating cinema and the world. The first two exhibitions were Philippe Garrel - A Dazzling Despair (2015) and Jonas Mekas - Again, Again, It All Comes Back to Me in Brief Glimpses (2017).
Today, amid the instability in Korea and East Asia caused by the struggle for hegemony among world powers, coupled with the re-emerging specter of totalitarianism across the globe, MMCA is evoking the critical voice of deconstruction provided by German filmmaker and media artist Harun Farocki (1944 – 2014). Offering insights into the way images are used to control the world, Farocki criticizes the violence of media and industrial technology toward humanity. Exploring the background of sociocultural phenomena and tracing the identity of images that accompany power that controls the contemporary world, he conveys hope that cinema may play a role in restoring rationality in an age of anti-rationalism. Farocki's research and analysis of media and images offer new perspectives onto other aspects of labor, war, and technology.
The Parallel I-IV (2012-2014) series takes an epistemological approach to the relationship between reality and images by analyzing image representation technologies such as computer graphics. Starting with graphic images used in early computer games, then moving on to images almost as detailed as their actual counterparts and even the construction of virtual reality, this series juxtaposes a range of images of different standards. Unlike observational images in film, video game images form the rules of games based on particular algorithms and provide experiences different from the empathy that we might feel while watching a film. This world of games is manipulated by avatars, which Farocki calls "intermediary beings between the human and the background." It represents the paradox of humans confronted by the limits of choice and unable to gain complete control.
Interface(1995), the first video installation he made for an art exhibition, compares and analyzes the arrangement and editing of images, as well as the relationship between two images in parallel, by playing Farocki's own essay documentaries on two monitors in an editing room. Leading to a simultaneous and organic relationship between images and using recordings made in different workplaces, Farocki’s theory of soft montage is an effective way of examining the relationship between geographical structure, capital, and labor. He took an archeological approach to examining the handling of labor-related images.
Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades (2006) is a 12-channel video installation reconstructed from Workers Leaving the Factory, a piece of footage film taken in 1995. The world's first documentary film (lasting 46 seconds), Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon, made in 1895 by the Lumière brothers, shows workers coming out of their factory. Taking this first publicly available motion picture as a motif, Farocki incorporates another eleven scenes of workers leaving their workplaces, selected from thousands of films and items of footage shot during the 110-year history of cinematography.
Comparison via a Third (2007) describes various types of labor that coexisted during the Industrial Revolution. The invention of manufacturing machines transformed manual industries into mass production systems, leading to the replacement of manpower by machines. Through the images here, we can compare African and Indian workers making bricks in traditional ways with workers in a European factory mass-producing them using high-tech machinery.
Initiated by Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki in 2011, the workshop project Labour in a Single Shot was filmed continuously in 15 cities worldwide until Farocki's death in 2014. Three more cities have been added to the project since 2017. Labour in a Single Shot produces videos of labor in progress around the world, each taken in one continuous, uncut shot. This solo show displays works produced in 16 cities, including the recent addition of Vilnius, Lithuania. With no artificial editing, the images of labor in various forms, places and relationships constitute neither political propaganda nor storytelling; they are not part of any documentary dealing with a particular theme. The act of viewing the labor of people struggling daily to survive in 16 very different cities signifies the facing of a reality – the common condition of human life - rather than the imagining of some dramatic story of anonymous individuals. Through Labour in a Single Shot Ehmann and Farocki document the behavior of the labor that governs human life, hoping that both the filmmakers - the participants in the video workshops - and the viewers will deconstruct patterns in their present lives that could become a part of history.
Workers Leaving Their Workplaces is another project carried out in 17 cities, recording workers exiting their workplaces like those in the Lumières' Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon. This work suggests the possibility of contemplating our own era, region, history and moments through the act of recording video footage.