August 17, 2007

Harun Farocki at Documenta 12

Filed under: Abstraction,Digital,Documenta12,The Body — Graham Coulter-Smith @ 12:18 pm

Harun Faruki, Detail from Deep Play, 2007.In Documenta Doldrums Part 2 I ended with the work of Imogen Stidworthy noting that in my opinion it was the best piece in the entire exhibition. Again, from a personal point of view I would place Harun Farocki’s computational video installation Deep Play, 2007, in second place. Deep Play provides the viewer with an unusual perspective on the ‘beautiful game’: football. The topic of the video is the 9 July 2006 World Cup Final between France and Italy at the Olympiastadion Berlin. Instead of focusing on the traditional aesthetic topic of beauty Farocki’s twelve-screen computational video examines the game through the eyes of expert and surveillance systems both human and computational, but mostly computational.

Conversations about football tend to be quite technical but Farocki takes this analytical way of seeing to the point where the players on the field become almost totally overtaken by on-screen, dynamic-analytical diagrams, graphs and computer simulations. We no longer view the match from what might be called a ‘human’ point of view. It is at this point of asking the question as to what exactly is ‘human’ that Farocki’s Deep Play resonates with Imogen Stidworthy’s I Hate, 2007. In both works we see a representation of an intimate relationship between thought (language being a principal medium of thought) and the body. Both works displace Cartesian dualism and point to the interconnection between thought and physical and sensorial experience. Watching football is a very good instance of a superimposition of thought and a focus on the body. We think about what happens in terms of our knowledge of the game and at the same time enjoy the movements of the footballers’ bodies almost as if they were dancers. But dance is not simply of the body and not the mind, bodily movements can be understood in semiotic terms and on one of his screens Farocki shows playbacks of fouls depicted in Laban notation. Laban notation is a standardised system for recording human motion mainly used to archive ballet. It was invented by the Hungarian Rudolf von Laban (1879-1958) an important figure in European modern dance. (


Harun Farocki, Deep Play, 2007. Detail of video installation.Another screen shows the Italian and French coaches observing the game together with a schematic diagram of the passes provided via Ascensio Match Expert computational analysis software. Farocki collaborated with various motion analysis software developers to make Deep Play and his collaboration with Ascensio is especially apparent in this installation. One of the screens on display, for example, indicates that Farocki was allowed to film Ascensio technicians using the Cup Final to create a promotional demo of their analytical system (which one can now download from the company’s website).

Various aspects of analysis are evident in Farocki’s installation, on one screen we see a dynamic bar graph beneath the video of the players showing their average and peak speeds. Another screen tracks a single player and shows a time graph of his rate of motion. Sometimes the players disappear altogether and we are given a computer generated interpretation of the game. Another screen uses a system developed by the TZI Center for Computing Technologies, Bremem, which can produce a spatio-temporal analysis of dynamic scenes together with a semantic interpretation via neural networks. The result of this particular system is that a computer voice can provide a commentary on the game. Farocki also used the imaging software HALCON by MVTec, Munich (


The series of video screens ends with surveillance footage from the Olympiastadion which seems to point to the extent to which we have superimposed technology and cognition on the world around us. But the question posed is whether this is an imposition of an alienated viewpoint as suggested by humanist-Marxist Frankfurt School notions of the ‘administered world’ or whether it is a natural evolution of self-organising social systems. The game of football becomes a metaphor for social life as an interwoven whole in which individual actions are made possible by the actions of others. Scientific research into social psychology seems to be moving in this direction, for example John Bargh of Yale University notes that “most of a person’s everyday life is determined not by their conscious intentions and deliberate choices, but by mental processes put into motion by the environment.” (in Buchanan 2007)


REFERENCES Buchanan, Mark. 2007. ‘Why We Are All Creatures of Habit’. New Scientist, 04 July. Online version.


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  4. links from Technoratiaqui uma síntese traduzindo alguns trechos. Interessante aqui ver como o cineasta está preocupado com as imagens de vigilância e com a performatividade “hiperreal” das imagens, principalmente em “Immersion”, de 2009. Vejamos: EmDeep Screenele mostrou 12 telas em tempo real da final da copa, utilizando algumas câmeras de vigilância para mostrar que muita informação acaba matando a informação. Já I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts, é uma instalação com duas tela

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  13. Hi,

    This is very interesting, things like these take watching football to the next level. I am sure the die hard fans of football would love this. All this graphic illustration makes understanding football in much more detail. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

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