Claudio is an Associate Researcher visiting us from Diego Portales University, Chile. During his time at WIAS (September-December 2016), he will be working on a project about Harun Farocki’s notion of ‘operational images’ to explore how images have become a source of value and a power mechanism in contemporary capitalism.
What is your research project about?
I use the work of the German filmmaker Harun Farocki as an analytical device to examine the role of images in the current stage of capitalist society. Through the montage of what Farocki himself has defined as ‘operational images’, his video work puts forth a critical analysis of how contemporary capitalism has transformed the nature of images, as well as the processes that constitute human vision. An operational image is a type of image that does not represent an object, but which forms part of a technical operation.
This may include images intended for surveillance, medical, industrial, logistic, or military purposes. Furthermore, with the development of advanced algorithms and automation, more and more of these operational images are being both produced and consumed by machines, excluding the human eye from the whole process.
By compiling and editing these operational images, the work of Harun Farocki unveils a series of characteristics of contemporary capitalism. Mainly, Farocki explores the intrinsic relation between images and labour. On the one hand, industrial capitalism replaced manual labour with the automatic repetition of machines, reducing the role of the human worker to that of the watchman who looks over the entire process. In this sense, industrial capitalism substitutes manual labour with visual labour. On the other hand, however, post-industrial capitalism seems to be relying more and more on advanced algorithms in order to also gradually replace visual labour with new forms of what Paul Virilio has called “machinic vision”.
Farocki’s video works operate as a critical device that brings images back to a human spectator and, in doing so, makes it possible to reflect upon the radical processes that transform the role of images in a context in which capitalism has also conquered the cognitive dimension of human activity.
What are you looking forward to during your stay at WIAS?
I hope I will have the opportunity to develop my research in a thriving environment. It will be great to work together with Professor Christian Fuchs and to participate in the different activities held at the Institute for Advanced Studies.
During my three-month stay I am planning to write a journal article and to present the outcome of my research in different academic settings, both at the University of Westminster and other universities.