Harun Farocki was born Harun El Usman Faroqhi in 1944 in Nový Jicin (Neutitschein), today's Czech Republic, and studied at the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin (DFFB), from which he was expelled in 1968 for political reasons. From 1974 to 1984 he was editor of the German magazine "Filmkritik". He is one of the most important essay filmmakers and the author of several television productions as well as theoretical texts. From 1993 to 1999 he was a lecturer at the University of California. From 2000 he taught at the German Film and Television Academy (DFFB) Berlin. From 2004 he held a visiting professorship at the University of Fine Arts in Vienna, where he served as a full professor from 2006 to 2011. His work was shown at Documenta 12 in Kassel in 2007 and in numerous international retrospectives and has received many awards. In 1995 he received the Adolf Grimme Prize for " Reeducation" and in 2002 the Peter Weiss Prize of the city of Bochum. In 2006 he was awarded the Herbert Quandt Media Prize for the documentary " Nothing Ventured" and in 2009 the ARTE Documentary Film Prize for the film " In Comparison". In the same year, he received the 2009 Wilhelm Loth Prize. In 2012, he was awarded the special prize for the Roswitha Haftmann Prize. In 2015, there was a "Special mention" at the Biennale di Venezia. Harun Farocki passed away near Berlin in 2014. In 2015 the Harun Farocki Institute (HaFI) was founded in Berlin as a "platform for researching Farocki's visual and discursive practice and as a flexible structure for new projects".
Farocki’s early films are marked by ideas of a cultural revolution as formulated by the increasingly radical Left of the time and are explicitly developed as effective means of political propaganda. In this way, "Inextinguishable Fire" (1968/69) seizes upon the Vietnam War as one of the quintessential themes of the student movement.
While his politically-motivated educational films subject the audience to an analytical and consciousness-raising agenda, the subsequent auctorial, essayistic, and documentary films call for a more active reception on behalf of the audience itself. Thus the documentaries consciously refrain from any interpretation of the events portrayed, while presenting quotidian life in a clearly visible form that reveals its hidden capitalistic logic. Parallel to this, cinematic essays arise, which question the very use of film as a pictorial medium. Through both montage and a deliberate composition of either intentionally filmed or found materials, Farocki produces a subtext, which opens up the technical, socio-political, and cultural contexts of meaning in the production, distribution, and reception of images. In works such as "Videograms of a Revolution" (1992), assembled entirely from found footage, Farocki manages to set up a completely new narrative order. In these works he thematizes the interactions of historic processes and their representation in the media.
Since the end of the 1990s, Farocki has been increasingly involved in creating video works within an exhibition context, e. g., at the Documenta X, 1997. His latest installations are concerned with the instrumentalization of the camera as a tool of supervision and control: "I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts" (2001 produced by the Generali Foundation) makes visually apparent the transition from a disciplinarian society to one of social control with the use of video footage from a surveillance camera. Similarly, "Eye/Machine I" (2002) shows just how far the use of images for technical supervisory purposes in both the military and civilian sectors has already progressed. (Luisa Ziaja)