For thousands of years humans have tried to answer how the world works; a question that later gave birth to philosophy, science, and technological innovation. Way of life, the concept of space and time, even the way we view ourselves have changed entirely. Humans became comfortable living with momentary answers, that instead it made them scared to see what’s beyond the makeshift comfort.
This was what Harun Farocki did in As You See (1986). His 72 minutes observation of what’s behind those fears, the reflection of human civilization through often forgotten details. Began with the reading of an architectural remains to examine how a city was born that grew to be merely a symbol of human’s conquest towards their nature; to the similarity of an agriculture industrial machines with, say, war instruments.
However, Farocki wanted to seek more than just visible similarities. He didn’t want to be distracted with the whizzing machine gun and found that the similarity was never occurred as a part of nature’s wish. This was the reflection that sometimes humans never truly aware of the things they had done.
Farocki saw the relation between the similarities of industrial machine and genocide weapons, and our effort to hide the rotten capitalism. Through advertisements and magnificent factory buildings. Through the contrast happened amid the splendor capitalism symbols; how they were only present to generate distraction from the starving human cries; since their position has been replaced with machines.
Through other fabricated symbols like names, sounds, and identities administered by media industry, in magazines and adult movies, to Coca-Cola advertisements. And then alienate us from their names that had became the martyr of development and ended up in a burrow without gravestone. Gravestones that were born from the relation between technological advancement and lives that had to be sacrificed.
Under various odd but made sense metaphors, Farocki tried to present another side of the incidents around us that are nearby but as if never occurred. Even if it did happen, humans were too busy to stop from their routines, look around, and question what had happened. Like civilization with endless journey, then forces its watchman to keep moving. Inside the same vehicle, the same road; starting and ending the journey at the same point. While in fact they weren’t going anywhere, because “development” had trapped humans on the road and hid behind the myth that roads are human’s peak of civilization. Connecting one human with another thus became civilization’s land of birth.
Or how Farocki’s decision to juxtapose a narrator that read Henry Ford’s life story, the pioneer of car mass production, with a pig’s anatomy as a metaphor how life had changed greatly. Cars that were born from the idea to liberate human from geographical limitations, had lost its ideological function once he was in the assembly line, in the form of small parts that were easier to ignore. Cars then became nothing more than another consumption stuff, since humans were only given the role as consumer.
As You See could be seen as Farocki’s attempt to connect the dots that were separate, arranged it in pictures and words, and the interlocking contexts behind it. He invited the audience to experience what happened in his mind, how he sees the world, development, advancement, technological innovation which simultaneously happened with the war, death, alienation, and falsehood. Not to become a pessimist, but it was his effort to stop for a moment and look for other life narrations that had become too fast and practical. Through montages of a child weaving fabric, industrial machine movements, the horror of war, and connected them in a narration of Farocki’s question of towards which direction do we determine human’s civilization.
As You See will be screened at Festival Film Dokumenter 2018 on December 6th, 2018 at Amphitheatre TBY at 8.30 p.m.. This movie is one of three movies that are part of “Retrospektif” Harun Farocki program, followed by discussion agenda on Sunday, 9 December 2018 at 19.00 WIB.
Written by Fahmi Khoirussani
Translated by Shiela M. Larasati