Kenyon College

Serious Games IV: A Sun With No Shadow (Video Still)


Harun Farocki
(German 1944 – 2014)

(Still from) Serious Games IV: A Sun With No Shadow, 2010.
Video, color, sound, 8 min..

Copyright Harun Farocki.

Violent video games are so prevalent in society that they have begun to lack shock value, which is why at first glance, the final piece in Harun Farocki’s series, Serious Games IV: A Sun with No Shadow, seems almost trivial. Yet the mere mention of “serious” in the title alludes to the intensity of the film. Farocki confronts the viewer with the violence shown in video game simulations for the training and treating of American soldiers. With minimal editing, Farocki combines documentary footage of American soldiers with video game simulations used in their training and treatment. He often pairs a video clip with text in simple, white font, which does not attract the viewer’s eye. The film’s dull aesthetic qualities make it difficult to stay attentive, but the film’s violence, such as the explosions and subsequent screams of the wounded in simulations makes it difficult to watch. As an artist, Farocki carefully analyzes and observes the computer-generated images, comparing the images for the prewar training of American soldiers to the images used for the postwar treatment of post traumatic stress disorder. Soldiers, seated at computers, play a video game that is meant to simulate combat scenarios in the Middle East to mentally prepare them for war. Farocki draws attention to the quality and realism of the training videos, such as the altering of the sky depending on the time of day, wardrobe options for terrorists and civilians, and the simple shadow of a coke can based on the imaginary sun. The images used in the postwar simulations are similar, yet they lack something so simple: shadows. He questions why the program created for conjuring traumatic experiences lacks the realism that exists in prewar training. It appears that before war soldiers have access to the best technology available, yet postwar they only have access to second-rate technology. Perhaps their traumatic memories, like shadows are rendered useless. By the end of the film, Farocki creates a unique dialogue between the differing simulations to question the cruelty of modern warfare on soldiers.
Caroline Chang `18