University of Dundee
Exhibition opening times
3 February – 1 April 2023
Monday – Saturday, 12–5pm
Cooper Gallery, University of Dundee is proud to present Harun Farocki: Consider Labour, the first major exhibition in Scotland of significant works by pioneering filmmaker Harun Farocki (1944-2014).
Re-inventing the 'filmic essay', Farocki’s thought-provoking oeuvre investigates how capitalism, consumerism, media, technology and war intertwine with all our lives for the past century. Influenced by theatre director Bertolt Brecht, philosopher Theodor Adorno, and film director Jean-Luc Godard, Farocki’s unique style of non-narrative-filmmaking consistently addresses practices of labour and the production of images that are concerned with understanding, reflecting and confronting modern society.
Bringing together the ten-screen film installation Labour in a Single Shot with Farocki’s most celebrated filmic essays; Workers Leaving the Factory (1995), Georg K. Glaser – Writer and Smith (1988), and In Comparison (2009), Harun Farocki: Consider Labour at Cooper Gallery critically questions the technological, aesthetic, and political conditions of making labour visible.
Labour in a Single Shot, the last project undertaken by Farocki in collaboration with Antje Ehmann, unashamedly opens our eyes to labour, whether paid and unpaid, material and immaterial, rich in tradition or altogether new. Developed in fifteen cities on five continents through workshops with artists, amateurs, and students, Farocki, Ehmann and their collaborators portrayed the toil of cobblers, cooks, domestic workers, garbage workers, nurses, tattoo artists, waiters, and window cleaners with a nuanced and ethically conscious eye. Comprised of a single shot and always between one or two minutes in length, each video evokes, in classic Brechtian fashion, crucial questions on the politics and representation of labour under global capitalism
Examining brick making as an analogy to society, In Comparison echoes the words of the Soviet documentary film maker Dziga Vertov who wrote 'film truth is made of material as a house is made of bricks' to critically consider how bricks and film making both create spaces, organise social relations and hold knowledge about society.
Workers Leaving the Factory explores a 45 second sequence from the first cinema film ever shown in public that depicts workers hurrying through factory gates. Exploring this archetypal moving image made by Louis Lumière in 1895, Farocki takes us through Chaplin's Modern Times to Fritz Lang's Metropolis haunted by the possibility of social tension and the ultimate loss of this stereotypical image of industrial labour.
With Georg K. Glaser – Writer and Smith, Farocki presents a close portrait of an artisan metalworker who in the morning writes at his desk then from midday makes bowls, lamps, vases, jugs and other metal work at his workshop in Paris. Through the combination of craftsmanship with writing, Farocki points to the French word artisan in which the syllable 'art' is not yet divorced from work.
Underpinned by the political activism of working class culture in Dundee, evident in the Marxist Reading Group on the 1993 Timex Strike picket line and the recent Better than Zero campaign against poverty pay, the exhibition at Cooper Gallery gives this most radical of cities an emotive relationship with all others who labour.
Celebrating the potency and pertinence of Farocki’s endeavour today, a series of public events including reading groups, screenings, talks and Labour in a Single Shot workshops will take place during the exhibition run. A panel discussion featuring Farocki’s collaborator Antje Ehmann will be held at the exhibition preview on 2 February.
Harun Farocki: Consider Labour | Preview & Panel Discussion
Thursday 2 February 2023, 6–9pm
Panel Discussion 6–7pm
Preview and drinks reception: 7–9pm
Speakers: Antje Ehmann, layla-roxanne hill and Sarah Perks
Labour in a Single Shot | Video making workshop
Saturday 11 February 2023, 1–3.30pm
Video making workshop facilitated by artists Gair Dunlop and Pernille Spence
Living Machines | Reading & Discussion Group
Thursday 23 February 2023, 6–7.30pm
Reading and discussion workshop facilitated by artist Stella Rooney
Some Women Other Women and all the Bittermen | Screening & Discussion
Thursday 9 March 2023, 6.30–8.30pm
Film screening and conversation between artist Rehana Zaman and Marissa Begonia, Director of The Voices of Domestic Workers, as part of Dundee Women’s Festival
She Works Hard for the Money | A Listening Party
Thursday 23 March 2023, 6–7.30pm
A Listening Party drawing on Ruth Ewan’s ongoing music archive, A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World featuring performer Debbie Armour
Harun Farocki was born in 1944 in Neutitschein in Czechoslovakia from an Indian father and a German mother. He spent his childhood in India and Indonesia before the family settled in Hamburg and Bad Godesberg. Farocki spent his adult life in Berlin until his passing in 2014.
Farocki was one of the most important filmmakers and video artists of contemporary documentaries and essay films working in Germany and his oeuvre comprises more than 120 feature films, essay films, documentaries and video-installations.
Farocki had numerous group and solo exhibitions in museums and galleries worldwide, including: MOMA, New York; MUMOK, Vienna, Jeu de Paume, Paris; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Tate Modern, London; and the Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw. Farocki participated twice in Documenta, 1997 and 2007. In 2015, Farocki was featured in the 56th International Exhibition of the Venice Biennale curated by Okwui Enwezor and received Special Mention from the Jury.
Farocki’s films and installations are generally socio-political in nature and reveal a keen interest in the role of technology in modern society. His films have dealt with such subjects as the Vietnam War, capitalism, labour systems, surveillance technology and military reconnaissance. Another recurrent theme in Farocki’s work was the investigation of images and what lies behind them, of what is really visible to the viewer and likewise what remains invisible - essentially the possibilities of seeing. As Thomas Elsaesser said: ‘Farocki’s films are a constant dialogue with images, with image making, and with the institutions that produce and circulate these images.’ His films and installations are difficult to categorize and demand close viewing. Nothing is as it seems and the viewers are challenged to keep questioning what they see.
Antje Ehmann is a curator and artist based in Berlin. She studied literature, philosophy and media studies from 1988 to 1995, and worked with the team of the Duisburg Film Week and the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen between 1992 and 1998. Ehmann married Harun Farocki in 2001. Ehmann curated numerous group and solo exhibitions in museums and galleries worldwide, together with Carles Guerra, Okwui Enwezor, Marius Babias amongst others. Ehmann is also co-editor of multiple books, including the volume Weimar Republic 1918-1933 in the German Research Foundation project History of Documentary Film in Germany (2000-2005). Ehmann has conducted workshops and exhibitions of the ongoing project Labour in a Single Shot in collaboration with Harun Farocki from 2011 to 2014, and since 2017, with Eva Stotz and Luis Feduchi. She was also involved in the production of the project as part of the Venice Biennale in 2013 and 2015.
Cooper Gallery is located to the right side of the DJCAD buildings on Perth Road. The entrance is via double doors which face onto a car park.
The gallery is on two floors. Ground floor has ramped access. First floor is accessible by an internal lift and six steps with a handrail. Wheelchair access is via a stairclimber. Please email in advance if you require lift or stairclimber access.
First floor is also accessible via 24 steps. Two flights of 12 steps with handrails are separated by a landing.
Exhibition video is subtitled in english. Audio will be played aloud via speakers. Seating is provided and/or additional seating available, please ask an invigilator.
For all enquiries please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The ground floor has a wheelchair accessible toilet. The toilet is gender neutral.
Large print versions of the exhibition information handout are available, please ask our Guides. If you require alternative formats for material in exhibitions please email or ask our Guides.
Cristián Silva-Avária, Concrete, Labour in a Single Shot. Rio de Janeiro, 2012. From Labour in a Single Shot by Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki, 2013.
Harun Farocki, Workers Leaving the Factory, 1995 (film still)
Harun Farocki, In Comparison, 2009 (film still)
Amy van Houten, Nibble Fingers, Johannesburg, 2014 (video still) from Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki, Labour in a Single Shot, 2011–ongoing
Magda Kulak, Natural History Museum, Lodz, 2013 (video still) from Antje Ehmann and Harun Farocki, Labour in a Single Shot, 2011–ongoing
Harun Farocki, Georg K. Glaser - Writer and Smith, 1988 (film still)
Consider Labour is supported by the Goethe Institut, Glasgow.