Harun Farocki – The Silver and the Cross

<p>In 'The Silver and the Cross' (2010), Farocki uses movement of the camera to perform a minute iconographical analysis of Gaspar Miguel des Berrío’s painting Depiction of the Cerro Rico and the Imperial City of Potosí (1758). As Thomas Elsaesser describes, the</p> <p>camera ‘follows the winding paths and tracks, making us part of the different crowds depicted, wandering peripatetically up and down the silver mountain, as if the painting was an installation and we film viewers were also gallery visitors’ (Elsaesser, e-flux, 2014). These meandering close-ups of the painting are intercut with contemporary footage of Potosí, Bolivia, to develop a discourse on European colonisation and the labour structures that still persist. Farocki describes how ‘the Spaniards brought the cross and they took the silver’, exploiting the rich mineral deposits of the Cerro Rico (rich mountain) and the local workforce, who continue to work the silver mines to this day. ‘As the deadpan voice-over explains, the canvas depicts Potosí as a bustling and vibrant city full of commerce, public squares, residential and religious buildings, and ceremonial processions. It highlights the complex system of waterworks that was developed to produce sufficient energy to pulverize the big rocks from the mines, as well as the piles of crushed ore mixed with mercury (the amalgamation compound for the production of silver) neatly arranged alongside the processing mills. But nowhere in the painting can the probing camera find any sign of the enormous exploitation of the indigenous population by the Spanish. Not even the entrances to the mines are represented. Once again, Farocki finds that key historical details, the ones that generated the city’s wealth and very existence, are absent’ (Nora M. Alter, October, 2015). Farocki’s analysis reveals the complicity of visual representation with certain forms of exploitation, which he implies continue to this day, albeit in different forms.</p> <p></p> <p>Farocki’s first film created for a museum setting, 'Schnittstelle' (1995), marked a turning point in his career, and his work has since been the subject of major institutional exhibitions, including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2017); Fundacío Antoni Tapìes, Barcelona (2016); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2014); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2011); Kunsthaus Bregenz (2010); Tate Modern, London (2009); MUMOK, Vienna (2007), among others.</p> <p></p> <p>Other editions of this artwork have been collected by MoMA, New York;&nbsp;Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; and&nbsp;FRAC Poitou-Charentes, Angoulême.</p>