Poetics and politics of the trace: Notes on surveillance practices through Harun Farocki’s work

Miriam Stefania De Rosa

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivista


From the very beginning of his artistic research, Harun Farocki’s work is interlaced with the concept of trace. Due to the essayistic nature of some films and video installations mainly dating back to the Nineties, the author’s reflection focuses the notion of trace in its connections with the filmic medium. Trace, index, presence, absence are keywords of a meta-discourse that considers the moving image in its relationship to the photographical realm. At the same time, the most recent productions tackle the topic of ‘traces’ from a perspective that questions the contemporary surveillance culture. Visual media practices such as CCTV, or technological systems such as eye-tracking and track-counting, involve the production of moving images for controlling purposes, thematizing quite explicitly the idea of watching and being watched. Farocki highlights the development of these mechanisms within both public spaces and places of disciplinary control. On the one hand, commercial areas such as malls are analyzed as arenas of a complex ensemble of traceability dynamics, where space is shaped after criteria of measurability and exploitability of traces. The director focuses in particular the tendency to naturalize the mechanic eye, and thus the acceptance and metabolization of surveillance devices within the texture and the imagery of everyday life. On the other hand, Farocki is notably the author of different documentaries and video-art works dealing with penitentiary environments and the life of convicts as they are caught by surveillance devices. This ‘Prison Clycle’ does not only show the familiarity of the director with cinematic practices of documentality, but also underscores the intertwining relation between visibility and governance.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)129-149
Numero di pagine21
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2014
Pubblicato esternamente


  • Cinematic trace
  • digital cinema
  • surveillance
  • visual arts


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