We will first focus on “Photograph and Screen” in which Stanley Cavell discusses the different “realities” and “worlds” that viewers are presented in paintings, photographs, and films. The painter chooses a world to show his audience: one that may not exist in reality and is limited by what is present on the canvas. Photographs, on the other hand, are strictly images of the world. So, any question the viewer might have about what is obstructed in the frame or what lies outside the frame have definite answers. Cavell claims that the “implied presence of the rest of the world and its explicit rejection, are as essential in the experience of a photograph as what it explicitly presents,” (Cavell, 24). What do you make of this claim?
So, a disclaimer: This is not a lesson plan, not precisely. I did in fact teach Harun Farocki’s Parallels series for the final class session for my SAIC writing seminar “Moving Images and Arguments.” But since it was the final class, and since we were in a phase of the course in which my top priority was guiding students during revisions of their final essays, our discussion of the videos wasn’t nearly as detailed and rich as what you see reflected here.
Really, these are notes toward a future lesson, delivered under ideal circumstances. Although it was outside of the scope of my “Moving Images and Arguments” course, what I am most interested in about the Parallels videos are the connections Farocki draws between the videogames’ imperfect simulations of reality and the problem of philosophical skepticism. Although present to some extent in Parallel I (2012), the specter of skepticism is most pronounced in Parallel II (2014) and Parallel III (2014). I was deep in the midst of writing my dissertation in 2014, and didn’t end up seeing II, III, and IV until 2016. This was a shame, because problems of skepticism actually play a large role in the first chapter of my dissertation, and it turns out that I missed the chance to incorporate an analysis of these videos into that discussion. Parallel II and Parallel III form the main inspiration for this post, as a way of making up for that lost opportunity.