Editorial: Turning Points: Coincidences in Prepositions

Coincidence is a moment of flourishing trivialities. Of all the liberal individualist constructions, it could be taken as one of the most forgiving subjectivities. This generosity is not only autonomous but always already on time: coincidence delayed is, basically, contemporaneity denied. The right to coincide with something is sought-after as the raw material of accumulation, so much so that the fullness of the experience is admitted to experimentation, the index of possible explanations and resolution to problems. Laboratories are founded on this premise. Think tanks and research institutes move their capital around this schedule. Coincidence is that “match” or “tap” in a dating app of knowledge production: relations are only real when they meet at one point—until then it is just a “swipe” in x direction or one of the x Reactions of a button that has reached its trajectory. Velocity is zero.

Still, even the artist and filmmaker Harun Farocki only narrowly escaped zero coincidence during his two-week stay in Manila in 1986. In his essay titled “I Don’t Think I was the Right Seminar Leader,” he returned to the time he spent in the Philippine capital as if recreating scenes on a film set when in fact he was recalling his experience as leader of a film workshop with Southeast Asian participants. Every time he elaborated upon a memory, there was a cut, a jump—“the rain that broke loose”—in his words written about the transitions of feelings  that kept him distracted as he received the steaming sensations of the tropics. His candor didn’t do much in composing a picture of a contextualized Harun: the artist arriving in the Philippines, a country on the cusp of ousting a dictatorship; the artist watching a film in a local cinema where the film was not the audience’s retinal priority; the artist substituting for another artist in transferring knowledge; the artist meeting other artists he would never meet again. These identities could not be apparent—for in this text, Farocki earmarked interaction rather than documented it—he could only link the forms of his attraction with the disappointment of being implicated in a situation he did not wish to be involved with in the first place. This is not at all surprising knowing his competing loyalties to criticality and critique: Farocki never surrendered to coincidence in this text and Farocki’s students resisted his approach because “they couldn’t see the point.”1

Readers’ invitation to the fourth issue of the Rosa Mercedes Journal may as well spring from these two histories of Harun and his workshop participants’ disappointment. Both parties had grown disinterested in established points and their vertical forms of attachment with art, which at first reading of Farocki’s text seems to surface as a somewhat private impression of his subjects, and yet, slowly, as one progresses in the essay, the participants’ voices become garbled with the artist’s predisposition to “constantly want to convey something that couldn’t be communicated in words.” Retaining the project heading—Coincidences in Prepositions—the collection of essays and artistic output, having been commissioned, republished, and adapted for public reading and circulation, form some sort of a republic of slightly off or overshot coincidences. Each contribution assembles its own urgencies, but even if only temporarily also builds on the temperament of the other authors, thinkers, and artists. Quite loosely structured, the entry-level recruitment of meanings and analyses though fairly undisciplined are yet restrained by fellowship in epistemological fractures. More accurately, the whole enterprise of this editorial endeavor can be compared with the process of incorporating a thousand tiny millenarian movements where the change perceived is not based on the comprehensiveness of a great revolution, but simply in the most banal of desires: that the powerful would have a change of heart. This mandate shows that discourse can be situated on the edges of coincidence, can derive from the feebleness of an idiom which radiates with the force of discursifying propositions and struggles to potently deliver affective justice.

We have attuned our attentions to the outpouring of voices since embarking on the method, theory, and historicism in consecutive iterations: first, through speech, gesture, and the performative in a series of discursive events on Zoom (“All the Missing Limbs of a Pre/position”); second, through the readily migratory screen emerging from a singular artistic output at the intersection of research-university-museum (Harun Farocki: Screenings,Vargas Museum, Manila); and finally, through inter-con-textual registers—published, coded, and edited virtually for a future readership in this edition of the Journal. There are concept-works that appear like hashtags— keywords, which we, the editors, offer readers to use for grouping, filtering, and/or arranging the contributions. What to others might have seemed like thematic kinship was to the “listeners” of text the sound of tonalities shifting as an expression of the experience of coherence. Therefore, the reading we propose here would be one of feeling, a reverent triviality through which one could look forward to turning points.

The unexciting passivity in the moderation of content is strengthened by our commitment to the larger program with the same title. With Coincidences in Prepositions the hope is to reveal how communities of fate can mutually constitute a “problem-space,”2 what concept-work they can instantaneously convene, and when and which of their ethical practices can fuse or diverge with the urgencies for contemporary modes of how to live together. Hosted in art, a field assumed to carry “comparison[s] in one and the same time and in consecutive times,”3 this confrontational turn within the asymmetries of the comparative—a picture of war between the republic and a sect—might be the reconciliatory position within a political program for coincidences to work together. Something divine is at work when coincidences are suddenly functional, but what really starts to happen here is that the multiple declarations of “… couldn’t see the point” are denaturalized, outlawed. This is the fabrication of coincidences that we promote here—a prayer in warfare, a kind of banditry in a given republic.

Renan Laru-an and titre provisoireCathleen Schuster/Marcel Dickhage



1 Harun Farocki, “I Don’t Think I was the Right Seminar Leader,” in Tilman Baumgärtel (ed.), KINO-SINE: Philippine-German Cinema Relations, Manila, 2007, pp. 42-47. 1

2 David Scott, Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment, Durham, NC, 2004. 2

3 Rada Iveković, “Coincidence of Comparison,” trans. Penelope Deutscher, Hypatia, vol. 15, no. 4, 2000, pp. 223–35, here p. 228. 3



Concept, editorial and research: Marcel Dickhage, Renan Laru-an, Cathleen Schuster 

Commissioned by: Doreen Mende

Production: Harun Farocki Institut

Management and editorial: Elsa de Seynes

Proofreading: Amanda Gomez and Hannah Sarid de Mowbray

Thanks to Erfan Aboutalebi, Gian Carlo Delgado, Antje Ehmann, Dongyoung Lee.

Funded by the Visual Arts Project Fund of the Goethe-Institut.

In partnership with the Harun Farocki Institut, Philippine Contemporary Art Network (PCAN), and UP Vargas Museum. 

Every effort has been made to clarify all rights of use with regard to the publication of the images and texts used in this issue. In a few cases, despite intensive research, we have not been able to calrify the rights holders. Please contact the Harun Farocki Institut in case of any legal claims.

May 16th, 2022 — Rosa Mercedes / 04