Harun Farocki is one of Germany’s most renowned documentary film maker and media artist. In four film essays Ernste Spiele I-IV Farocki documents training methods at United States military facilities. Farocki juxtaposes footage filmed at the respective trainings centers, with sequences from computer simulations used in the training there. The computer animations look like games but in fact depict virtual battlefields generated from actual geographical and satellite data on terrain in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same programs that serve to prepare military personnel for deployment in war zones are later used as therapy in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Harun Farocki presents:
Ernste Spiele I: Watson ist hin, 2010, 8:00 min
In the autumn of 2009 Farocki films a drill at the Marine Corps Base 29 Palms in California. Four Marines sitting in a class represent the crew of a tank. They have laptops in front of them on which they steer their own vehicle and watch others in the unit being driven through a Computer-AnimationLandscape. The simulated Afghan is based on geographical data out of Afghanistan. A street in the computer landscape runs exactly as it would in the real Afghanistan; the same holds for every tree, the vegetation on the ground or the mountain ranges. The instructor places explosive devices and sets insurgents out in the area. A sniper shoots the tank gunner, which Farocki documents with the camera. When the tank drives over the fallow it kicks up a dust tail. The more vegetation there is, the less dust. On the asphalt street, no dust. Even with all this attention to detail, death in the computer game is still something different than the real one.
Ernste Spiele II: Drei tot, 2010, 8:00 min
Around 300 extras who represented both the Afghan and Iraqi population. A few dozen Marines were on guard and went out on patrol. The town where the manoeuvre is carried out is on a slight rising in the desert and its buildings are made from containers. It looks as though one had modelled reality on a computer animation.
Ernste Spiele III: Immersion, 2010, 20:00 min
In January 2009 Farocki visits a workshop organised by the Institute for Creative Technologies, a research centre for virtual reality and computer-simulations. One of their projects concerns the development of a therapy for war-veterans suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Farocki is interested in the use of virtual realities and games in the recruiting, training and now also therapy for soldiers. Farocki explores the connection between virtual reality and the military – how the fictional scenarios of computer games are used both in the training of U.S. troops prior to their deployment in combat zones, and in psychological care for troops suffering battlefield trauma upon their return.
Ernste Spiele IV: Eine Sonne ohne Schatten, 2010, 8:00 min
This chapter investigates the fact that the pictures with which preparations were made for war are so very similar to the pictures with which war was evaluated afterward. But there is a difference: The program for commemorating traumatic experiences is somewhat cheaper. Nothing and no-one casts a shadow here.
Harun Farocki (b. 1944 in Nový Jicin/Neutitschein, at that time Sudetengau, today Czech Republic). 1966-1968 Admission to the just opened Berlin Film Adacemy, DFFB. 1974-1984 Author and editor of the magazine Filmkritik , Munich. 1998-1999 Speaking about Godard / Von Godard sprechen, New York / Berlin. (Together with Kaja Silverman). 1993-1999 Visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1966 more than 100 productions for Television or Cinema: Children’s TV, Documentary Films, Essay Films, Story Films. Since 1996 various solo- and group exhibitions in Museums and Galleries. 2007 with Deep Play participation at documenta 12. Since 2004 Visiting Professor, 2006-2011, full Professorship at the Academy of Art, Vienna.