Monday, June 11, 2012

Still Life


(Stilleben / Harun Farocki / 1997)

There is a strong Marxist (read Hegelian) dialectic taking place in this meditative video essay, particularly in regards to the (complex) theory of commodity fetishism. Yet Farocki allows this to swirl around the undercurrents of the work, leaving a hypnotic visual experience that isn't bogged down in dense philosophy (it's definitely there, mind you). For as much information that is conveyed in the analysis of Dutch Renaissance paintings, Farocki is a master of duration. The footage of consumer product photographers at work is powerful because of how much time we spend with them. Their actions are not reduced to symbolic meaning, but strangely humanized. The dense social consequences of their work is balanced by the banality and tedium of their craft.

This would make an interesting triple-bill with Czech Dream and John Berger's Ways of Seeing, particularly the oil painting episode that tracks the rise of the medium with the rise of consumer capitalism in the West.

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