NICHT löschbares Feuer

04 / 11 / 01 - 14 / 12 / 01
Exhibition / Screening / Discussion

NICHT löschbares Feuer
curated by Constanze Ruhm

On Jill Godmilow including:
Why I repeated Farocki...
Correspondence between Jill Godmilow and Harun Farocki...
on NICHT löschbares Feuer (Inextinguishable Fire)...
Jill Godmilow : On Farocki's Strategies: The Technique and Structure of Inextinguishable Fire...
Other films by Jill Godmilow...

Tom Gunning on What Farocki taught
Synopses of Harun Farocki's works available in the video section
A Conversation between Anna and Robert


A Conversation between Anna and Robert
from: Etwas wird sichtbar, Harun Farocki (1980/82) [1]

Robert: This is an interesting picture. The American soldier has an earpiece, so he is able to hear whether there are tunnels underneath, through which the Vietcong move. Like a doctor. The picture says: The Vietcong is the disease, which has seized Vietnam. The American soldier is a doctor who will cure the country. And the picture tells us something else: the blood in Vietnam's vessels is the Vietcong. Its heart beat.
Anna: This looks illicit. A picture of us, among the images of the war.
Robert: Like in a war movie. An exciting love story in front of a backdrop of war and genocide
Anna: It looks so obscene, because we are not injured. The victims one sees in these pictures, they are hurt, the perpetrators are not injured.
Robert: And why is that ? When two people embrace, they fall silent. If one begins to think, and to talk, then one stops embracing. Or even worse: two lovers talk to one another, all of a sudden, they are lost. Then they embrace. But to intertwine love and politics would mean to do both, at the same time.
Anna: No, this is wrong. Two lovers embrace silently, mute, and still it is like a conversation. They might be far apart from each other and talk, and it seems like an embrace.
Robert: I study industrial sciences, but not really. The history of industry, the history of ideas. 10 000 years ago, wheat was just growing by itself. Then, there was sowing, first without clearing the landscape. Then there were fields. A field is almost an assembly line. But the analysis is still missing. Until the 19th century the art of cultivation, of sowing was in each single region a different art. As for today, science has explored fertility, fertilizers, and the conditions for growth. Thus there is no such thing as vernacular wheat. Does that mean that ideas hover above the earth like specters ? Or are there American ideas, Vietnamese ideas, and an idea; is it valid everywhere or just where it emerged?
Anna: Let's talk about these pictures. Everything had started with these pictures. It was in 1965, first in the US, then in Sweden, France and here that these pictures appeared. "Torture for freedom's sake", "Americas dirty war", such were the captions.
Robert: Why is it there are so many pictures from this war?
Anna: For me, the pictures were revelations. They unveiled something on the US that so far had been hidden. The USA, that had meant: the law. I had never thought about the USA. Everything seemed to be law: that people have to die, that kids have to sleep at night, that one goes to work after school. Once when I was a child I was hiding under the table and watched while my mother fucked this guy from the neighborhood, on the couch. First of all, I found it only surprising that Americans tortured. After I had seen the pictures I wanted everyone to see them. I wanted them to be public.
Robert: What was really new at that point was that an American would kill in person, like a sadist, a robber and murderer, like someone who was half-crazed with jealousy. In WWII they had killed like the law. They executed. With their artillery they just destroyed what lay ahead of them, proceeded, destroyed further. Like a machine. An execution machine. In Vietnam soldier and victim are so close that both fit in a frame.
Anna: We wanted to spread these images. I was handing out leaflets next to the subway station, Fehrbelliner Platz. Maybe with this picture. It had a caption that claimed the US should leave Vietnam. People were rude, they insulted me. A woman who looked like the wife of a doctor spat at me. A man with a leather jacket and a shepherd dog, one of these many in Berlin hit me. So I stopped handing out these leaflets and went home. People on the subway read the BZ. The BZ had maybe published this image. The caption maybe said: Communists in Vietnam acting with utter violence. These kids, they had just lost their parents after returning from the market in Pai Qu. These images were so close. We pointed at this one and said, Americans go home. They pointed to another one and said, Vietcong leave. It was like advertisement. A competition in violence. It made me feel so ashamed. The answer is, the Vietcong might have dropped the bomb on these children. But it is not the Vietcong's policy to drop bombs on kids. This US soldier tortured a peasant, and this is the US policy. This was our answer. There was a very smart student in our group; we called it "Terrorgruppe Neuruppin". He said: Let's suppose a caption for this picture: This man has been lynched by a communist mob while he was just doing his duty. In one way, this is correct. It is an image of a concentration camp guard who was killed by the prisoners after their liberation. So. The text is correct, but not true.
Robert: Therefore, it is not so much about what can be seen on an image, but what lies behind it. Still one shows images in order to prove something that the image cannot prove.
Anna: We were looking for something that would include everything. The complete history of war contained in one image. This can not be. It started with these images. In 1966 I was a secretary in an office, I had seen these images and wanted to change my life for them. I wanted to become a partisan. When in office I tried to work reliably and to seem interested in what was going on, so no one would be able to recall my face later on. At four in the afternoon I came home and had two beers so I could sleep. I slept until ten p.m., then my second work day begun. I started my work with a French book on Vietnam, and since I did not know a single word French, I read a word, looked it up in the dictionary, another word, and so on. In the morning I learned them by heart. This is how I became a translator. I translate a German book as well: by reading it. I became very tired, from these double work shifts. Sometimes I fell asleep standing in the streetcar. At that time, then, I practiced to make good use of my sleep. One sleeps maybe eight hours a night, but the head needs only a few moments for detoxification.
Robert: In 1966, I was looking for the rare and brief moments that are important when one is awake. In 1966, we were in love with the word "Situationist". A real Situationist is living in the here and now, unlike the bourgeois who invests money and emotions into the present in order to be paid back by the future.

The works of Harun Farocki appear courtesy of the artist.
Texts, Translations: C.R.


[1] in: Der Ärger mit den Bildern.Die Filme von Harun Farocki. Rolf Aurich, Ulrich Kriest (Hg.) Suttgart 1998.