Working images
Harun Farocki and the operational image
in Image operations
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This chapter traces the origins and implications of the ‘operational image’, as it has come to be explored in Harun Farocki’s texts and installations since 2000. Defined in Eye/Machine I (2000) as ‘Images without a social goal, not for edification, not for reflection,’ operational images pervade both the military and non-military realm of today’s life. To contextualise this type of image, three concepts are revisited that have explicitly informed Farocki’s understanding: Roland Barthes’ idea of ‘operational language’, Vilém Flusser’s ‘technical image’, and the project of a computer aided ‘Bildwissenschaft’ based on algorithmic image retrieval. After a closer analysis of some of the counter-operational strategies Farocki employs, the article suggests to distinguish three levels of operationality and to understand Farocki’s project as a film maker, video artist and thinker as a continuous examination of the operational potential of images.

Image operations

Visual media and political conflict

Editors: Jens Eder and Charlotte Klonk

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