Harun Farocki - War at a Distance (2003)

War at a Distance [Erkennen Und Verfolgen]
Harun Farocki | Germany | 54 min. | video | 2003 |

In 1991, when images of the Gulf War flooded the international media, it was virtually impossible to distinguish between real pictures and those generated on computer. This loss of bearings was to change forever our way of deciphering what we see. The image is no longer used only as testimony, but also as an indispensable link in a process of production and destruction. This is the central premise of Erkennen und Verfolgen, which continues the deconstruction of claims to visual objectivity

In War at a Distance, Farocki returns to themes explored in works such as Images of the World and the Inscription of War, bringing them technologically up to date. The automation of factory production is paralleled with the automation of destruction in warfare, and a new world of machine images is revealed – images not intended for human eyes, but for the visual tracking systems of the digital age. The video traces the history of missile guidance systems from WWII through the present day using visual artifacts of machine guidance systems, as well as training films, missile footage from the Gulf War, and flight and battle simulations. A coolly terrifying glimpse of the future.


"Since the Gulf War in 1991, warfare and reporting it have become hyper-technological affairs, in which real and computer-generated images cannot be distinguished any more. With the aid of new and also unique archive material, Farocki sketches a picture of the relationship between military strategy and industrial production and shows how war technology finds its way into everyday use."

-International Film Festival catalogue, Rotterdam (2004)


"Farocki's War at a Distance brilliantly navigates and explores the connections between machine-vision, violence, and capitalist production practices in the context of the Gulf War and the global economy. Farocki demonstrates that our naive anthropocentric notions of vision and the visible are obsolete in today's world."

- San Francisco Cinematheque (2004)





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