Harun Farocki, Media Technologist: Film as Research Instrument in the Work of Harun Farocki 1966 to 1973

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the filmmaking and media practice of the German documentarian, essay filmmaker and video artist Harun Farocki between 1966 and 1973 in the context of the 1968 student movement. Although Farocki has come to represent one of the most important German media artists of the last decades with a body of work of more than 100 films and video installations, his early filmmaking has yet to be re-evaluated since it received a brief history in the German book Vom Guerillakino zum Essayfilm by Tilman Baumgärtel in 2002. This study undertakes this task by analysing newly available films and drawing from new scholarship on Farocki and the West German 1968 movement. Challenging the dominant notion that Farocki’s film activism at the Deutsche Film-und Fernsehakademie Berlin and subsequent work in television in the early 1970s were the transitional phases of a film activist wanting to become an artist, I demonstrate how his prominent status as a “media theorist” and prolific reader and commentator of images originates from his film and video experimentations during this period. To this end I examine Farocki’s lesser-known films between 1966 and 1973 and his landmark film NICHT löschbares Feuer (1968/69) through a close reading of their engagement with other media, from advertising posters to newspapers, photographs to musical jingles, from theatrical performances to TV screens. Through these analyses with recourse to the films’ production history and selected writing from this period, I demonstrate how Farocki uses film as a research instrument to confront, analyse, criticise and re-define the media conditions of his times, inspired by the media theory of Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin. I turn to the 1968 context as a crisis of cinema and the media to identify Farocki’s media politics as a generative ground for a prolific experimentation with crossmedial forms driven by the radical, transformative potential of what André Bazin famously recognised as cinema’s intrinsic impurity.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorMartin Brady (Supervisor) & Erika Balsom (Supervisor)

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