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Harun Farocki, William E Jones, “Public Speaking”

The exhibition Harun Farocki: Comparison via a Third is on view through March 3 at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow and, for Artforum, Ed Halter listens to Farocki discuss his own work: "Even from watching narrative films, one can learn how important repetition and variation are: Most locations appear at least twice. This occurs for economic reasons, but it also structures the film, and makes you compare scene A with A¹."

Rachael Cloughton interviews Farocki as well, for the Skinny.

In a dispatch to Big Other, Elaine Castillo notes that she attended two of the workshops that preceded the opening of the show and was surprised by "how depoliticized they seemed to be. Most of the young men of the art world seemed content to frame Farocki's films in terms of their formal monotony ('I zone out' 'No, but I think that's the point') as well as some idea of cybernetic mechanization or corporate strangleholds, anxiety about Tesco-branded parks and schools, 'all of us in the Western world live virtual mediated lives,' and then some dude actually started talking about Baudrillard and the simulacra — I don't know. I suppose it's unfashionable or unpalatable to speak directly about dehumanization, exploitation, alienation, and the inscription of violence in supposedly neutral or everyday objects. How automation of responsibility makes for evacuation of responsibility. And about the violence of looking: the violence of what you see if and when you look. Farocki's films are often made up of found footage, and often footage not intended for entertainment or aesthetic evaluation (such as video taken from missiles as they approach their targets — the view from a suicidal camera), but are simply part of the body of surveillance, of quality control; images whose destiny is not representational or even solely informational, but instrumental in actually producing the event (the laser-guided missile, the smart weapon that detects its target and steers itself towards it, the robot whose sensor system allows it to navigate a corridor). 'These images don't want to mean anything. These images don't want to mean anything. They just offer movement for the eye. Like gestures you make at horses who aren't working and aren't free.' But Farocki points out, and someone during the discussion pointed out, that sometimes these images can possess a strange beauty, or give an unexpected frisson of pleasure. What to do with this beauty? This irrepressibility of the aesthetic in the investigation of the mechanical, industrial, instrumental. I was happy to see these moments of beauty being named. Not because they gave me pleasure. But because it's important to interrogate beauty, too."

New York's monthly queer film series Dirty Looks will be screening William E Jones's Finished (1997) this evening at Participant Inc. At the House Next Door, programmer Bradford Nordeen introduces his interview with Jones: "Finished is an experimental diary that traces Jones's obsession with Québécois porn actor Alan Lambert. Lambert saw himself as a revolutionary, ultimately taking his own life in a misguided act of political transgression. Jones's confessional confronts both public and private — from race politics in the home video market to the consumer appeal of porn — in his struggle to understand his troubled muse."

Martin Scorsese's Public Speaking opens at Film Forum today for a limited engagement. "A butch Dorothy Parker with flashes of Wildean rhetorical flourish, Fran Lebowitz, the subject of this tonic portrait that first aired on HBO in November, reminds us that mouthiness serves a noble civic function," writes Melissa Anderson in the Voice.

Back at the House, Dan Callahan: "Late last year, I watched Public Speaking and then Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work right afterward, and they made for an illuminating study in contrasts. Rivers, for all of her success, is still desperate for attention and approbation from as many people as possible; her shtick is that she will say anything and do anything as long as we keep watching her, and though she can still be outrageously funny, Rivers's anything-goes drive is more than a little depressing. Lebowitz, on the other hand, obviously couldn't care less what the masses think of her or even what Scorsese thinks of her; she was brought up in a very different, now-vanished milieu, a cutthroat world of high culture 1970s gay men who were all but wiped out by AIDS. Browsing through her collected writings again, bound in one volume now called The Fran Lebowitz Reader, I could tell exactly the kind of gay man she was writing for, and I could even picture that gay man reading her latest piece and phoning others to read it out loud and laugh over it. There are a lot of dated observations in her arch, 'It has occurred to me,' style; her really weak articles are usually the ones that make use of lists or compare-and-contrast tables. But every now and then, Lebowitz will come out with a walloping aphorism like, 'Sleep is death without the responsibility.'"

More from David Fear (Time Out New York, 4/5), Nicolas Rapold (L) and Lauren Wissot (Slant, 2.5/4).

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