Graduate Student Workshop

Assembling and Disassembling. Working with the Farocki Institut’s Archive

Volker Pantenburg
Universität Zürich
March 21, 2023
12:00 – 1:30 pm
301 Julis Romo Rabinowitz
Image provided by Volker Pantenburg

Sesamstraße: Kinderhäuser (Arbeitstitel), FRG 1977, dir.: Harun Farocki (not broadcast).

When Harun Farocki died in 2014, parts of his estate were taken into custody by the Harun Farocki Institut, a small, institution established in 2015 as an independent “platform for researching his visual and discursive practice and supporting new projects that engage with the past, present and the future of image cultures.”


What characterizes the collection is that it does not hold Farocki’s finished works. Instead, it comprises all kinds of working material surrounding his films. For example, it holds many VHS tapes containing archival research for Farocki’s projects such as Workers Leaving the Factory (1995), The Expression of Hands (1997), and Prison Images(2000); unused material shot for various projects; and screen tests of auditioning actors rehearsing lines from films. In short, it is a very peculiar and haphazard collection, which might more appropriately be called a para-archive.


In the graduate student workshop, I would like to discuss some of the challenges which I experienced in the past 8 years when working with this archive. On the one hand, this means confronting the collection with Farocki’s own notions of the archive, which have been a major concern since the 1970s. On the other, it means thinking how the peculiar character of the para-archive invites us to re-evaluate film theoretical concepts – authorship vs. collective production, finished works vs. unmade films, individual expression vs. institutional context, to name but a few. The workshop should provide an opportunity to look at archival material together and collectively think about options to activate it for the future.