Hito Steyerl
March 8 — May 24,

Saturday, March 7, 6 – 8pm

This exhibition surveys the work of German filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl, focusing particularly on the artist's production from 2004 onwards. Over this period Steyerl’s films, essays and lectures have uniquely articulated the contemporary status of images, and of image politics. Central to her work is the notion that global communication technologies – and the attendant mediation of the world through circulating images – have had a dramatic impact on conceptions of governmentality, culture, economics and subjectivity itself.

Hito Steyerl presents eight existing works and one new commission within an exhibition design conceived by the artist and her team. The exhibition spans both Artists Space venues and also encompasses a program of talks and screenings, and an online aggregation of Steyerl’s writing.

Steyerl studied documentary filmmaking, and her essay films of the 1990s address issues of migration, multiculturalism and globalization in the aftermath of the formation of the European Union. Her films November (2004) and Lovely Andrea (2007) mark a move towards the extrapolation of the essay form as an open-ended means of speculation. They locate representations of herself and her friend Andrea Wolf as object lessons in the politics played out within the translation and migration of image documents. Steyerl’s prolific filmmaking and writing has since occupied a highly discursive position between the fields of art, philosophy and politics, constituting a deep exploration of late capitalism’s social, cultural and financial imaginaries. Her films and lectures have increasingly addressed the presentational context of art, while her writing has circulated widely through publication in both academic and art journals, often online.

The exhibition begins at Artists Space Exhibitions with Red Alert (2007), an installation that succinctly collapses many of the concerns active in Steyerl’s work. Three vertically-oriented monitors each show the same solid red shade. The monochrome three-screen film provides a humorous “new-media” take on Alexander Rodchenko’s triptych of paintings Pure Colours: Red, Yellow and Blue (1921), an artwork that has been interpreted as both the “end of art” and the “essence of art.” Also referencing the terror alert system introduced by Homeland Security in the wake of 9/11, Red Alert signifies, in Steyerl’s words, “the end of politics as such (end of history, advent of liberal democracy) and at the same time an era of ‘pure feeling’ that is heavily policed.”

These “politics of the monochrome” are carried further into the scenography of the exhibition. The films Guards (2012) and In Free Fall (2010) are located in labyrinthine “black-box” spaces that take the viewer from the claustrophobia of a padded corridor, to first-class airline luxury; whereas Liquidity Inc. (2014) is installed in a space bathed in aquatic blue light. As with the majority of Steyerl’s films, these works extend from research conducted through interviews and the accumulation of found visual material, and move between forensic documentary and dream-like montage. Guards, produced at the Art Institute of Chicago, centers on conversations with museum security staff with previous military or law enforcement careers. Their descriptions of tactics and strategy point to the museum as a site of militarization and privatization, and to their contradictory position between visibility and invisibility within a space of pure affect and sensation. In Free Fall takes as a central motif an aircraft graveyard in the Californian desert, and builds around the biographies of objects and materials held there a web of connections between economic crash, the volatility of the moving-image industry, and the spectacularization of crisis. Steyerl’s most recent film, Liquidity Inc., treats as dual subjects the figure of Jacob Wood, a former investment banker turned MMA fighter, and water, in all its mutable physical and metaphorical states.

Empire of the Senses

Police as art and the crisis of representation

In the Empire of the senses, police becomes an expert in aesthetics. The colors of the terror alert system are just one example of how the police paints moods and atmosphere. A strategy, which has a long tradition in monochrome paintings. But adopting the aesthetic strategies of the monochrome is not confined to terror alerts, but has become a trademark of postpolitical aesthetics.

First appeared in Transversal 09/07: Art and Police, 2007
Published by eipcp – European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies

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In Defense of the Poor Image

The poor image is no longer about the real thing – the originary original. Instead, it is about its own real conditions of existence; about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities. It is about defiance and appropriation just as it is about conformism and exploitation.

First appeared in e-flux journal #10, 2009
Published by e-flux

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Politics of the Archive

Translations in Film

The afterlife, as Walter Benjamin once famously mentioned, is the realm of translation. This also applies to the afterlife of films. In this sense, this text deals with translation: with the transformations of two films, whose original prints were caught up in warfare, transformations which include transfer, editing, translation, digital compression, recombination and appropriation.

First appeared in Transversal 06/08: Borders, Nations, Translations, 2008
Published by eipcp – European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies

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Missing People

Entanglement, Superposition, and Exhumation as Sites of Indeterminacy

The zone of zero probability, the space in which image/objects are blurred, pixelated, and unavailable, is not a metaphysical condition. It is in many cases man-made, and maintained by epistemic and military violence, by the fog of war, by political twilight, by class privilege, nationalism, media monopolies, and persistent indifference.

First appeared in e-flux journal #38, 2012.
Published by e-flux

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Truth Unmade

Productivism and factography

Perhaps documentary truth thus cannot be produced, just as community cannot be produced. If it were produced, it would belong to the world of the factum verum or the paradigm of instrumentality and governmentality, which traditionally imposes itself on documentary truth production (and which I have elsewhere called documentality). But this other mode of documentary emerges at a point, where documentality, as well as the instrumentality, pragmatism and utility that go along with it, are ruptured.

First appeared in Transversal 09/10: New Productivisms, 2010
Published by eipcp – European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies

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Documentarism as Politics of Truth

Documentality describes the permeation of a specific documentary politics of truth with superordinated political, social and epistemological formations. Documentality is the pivotal point, where forms of documentary truth production turn into government – or vice versa.

First appeared in Transversal 10/03: Differences & Representations, 2003
Published by eipcp – European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies

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The Language of Things

A documentary image obviously translates the language of things into the language of humans. On the one hand it is closely anchored within the realm of material reality. But it also participates in the language of humans, and especially the language of judgement, which objectifies the thing in question, fixes its meaning and constructs stable categories of knowledge to understand it. It is half visual, half vocal, it is at once receptive and productive, inquisitive and explanatory, it participates in the exchange of things but also freezes relations between them within visual and conceptual still images.

First appeared in Transversal 06/06: Under Translation, 2006
Published by eipcp – European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies

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In Free Fall

A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective

The view from above is a perfect metonymy for a more general verticalization of class relations in the context of an intensified class war from above – seen through the lenses and on the screens of military, entertainment, and information industries. It is a proxy perspective that projects delusions of stability, safety, and extreme master onto a backdrop of expanded 3D sovereignty.

First appeared in e-flux journal #24, 2011
Published by e-flux

A Thing Like You and Me

There might still be an internal and inaccessible trauma that constitutes subjectivity. But trauma is also the contemporary opium of the masses – an apparently private property that simultaneously invites and resists foreclosure. And the economy of this trauma constitutes the remnant of the independent subject. But then if we are to acknowledge that subjectivity is no longer a privileged site for emancipation, we might as well just face it and get on with it.

First appeared in e-flux journal #15, 2010
Published by e-flux

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The Institution of Critique

The criticism of authority is according to Kant futile and private. Freedom consists in accepting that authority should not be questioned. Thus, this form of criticism produces a very ambivalent and governable subject, it is in fact a tool of governance just as much as it is the tool of resistance as which it is often understood. But the bourgeois subjectivity which was thus created was very efficient. And in a certain sense, institutional criticism is integrated into that subjectivity, something which Marx and Engels explicitly refer to in their Communist manifesto, namely as the capacity of the bourgeoisie to abolish and to melt down outdated institutions, everything useless and petrified, as long as the general form of authority itself isn't threatened.

First appeared in Transversal 01/06: Do You Remember Institutional Critique?, 2006.
Published by eipcp – European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies

Is a Museum a Factory?

Today, cinematic politics are post-representational. They do not educate the crowd, but produce it. They articulate the crowd in space and time. They submerge it in partial invisibility and then orchestrate their dispersion, movement, and reconfiguration. They organize the crowd without preaching to it. They replace the gaze of the bourgeois sovereign spectator of the white cube with the incomplete, obscured, fractured, and overwhelmed vision of the spectator-as-laborer.

First appeared in e-flux journal #7, 2009
Published by e-flux

Politics of Art

Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy

Even though political art manages to represent so-called local situations from all over the globe, and routinely packages injustice and destitution, the conditions of its own production and display remain pretty much unexplored. One could even say that the politics of art are the blind spot of much contemporary political art.

First appeared in e-flux journal #21, 2010
Published by e-flux

Culture and Crime

In the global North, this sphere of privacy offers a whole range of different life styles. They suggest the complete freedom to design one's own living conditions - provided that they remain private and remain restricted to the recognition of individually culturalized identities. Difference is tolerated within the system of cultural domestication - but not as opposition to the system itself. Opposition is thus replaced by cultural difference.

First appeared in Transversal 01/01: Cultura Migrans, 2001
Published by eipcp – European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies

The Articulation of Protest

Which movement of political montage then results in oppositional articulation - instead of a mere addition of elements for the sake of reproducing the status quo? Or to phrase differently: Which montage between two images/elements could be imagined, that would result in something different between and outside these two, which would not represent a compromise, but would instead belong to a different order - roughly the way someone might tenaciously pound two stones together to create a spark in the darkness?

First appeared in Transversal 03/03: Mundial, 2003
Published by eipcp – European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies

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The exhibition continues at Artists Space Books & Talks, with November and Lovely Andrea shown consecutively in the basement space. Steyerl’s teenage friend Andrea Wolf, who became a martyr of the Kurdish liberation movement when killed in Çatak, Turkey in 1998, serves as a driving force underlying both works. Steyerl develops a reflexive investigative approach in these two films, in which she documents her journeys in tracing the circulation of particular images and strands of information. This approach positions her own body and subjectivity, alongside that of Wolf, between primary documents and allegorical sites – at which complex flows of desire, control and capital intersect.

Such an approach is also evident in documentation of three lectures exhibited on the ground floor. In recent years Steyerl’s practices as filmmaker and writer have intersected in these events, which begin as public lectures given by the artist and then find a second form in their documentation and presentation both online and in exhibitions. They are distinctive in placing Steyerl center stage – as investigative voice, as image “body,” as subject and object – and catalyze theoretical speculation with their use of visual and linguistic cues. I Dreamed a Dream (2013), Is the Museum a Battlefield? (2013) and Duty-Free Art (2015) depart from experiences the artist recounts, that blur the lines between fact and fiction. Particularly present in these lectures are Steyerl’s visits to Kurdistan and to the site of Andrea Wolf’s murder, which have brought Steyerl in contact with the current humanitarian crisis in the region, stemming from military actions in Syria.

Duty-Free Art is a new lecture, presented for the first time at the opening of this exhibition. It builds a thread of connections between leaked emails from Syrian government accounts, and the growing phenomenon of the “freeport” – storage facilities where millions of dollars of artworks are held without incurring taxes. As concentrated sites of the dialectics apparent in Steyerl’s films and writing, her lectures articulate the notion of the artist as performing image, as producer and as circulator. Steyerl has coined the term “circulationism” in order to describe a state that is “not about the art of making an image, but about post-producing, launching, and accelerating it.”

This exhibition is supported by the Friends of Artists Space; the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; and the Hito Steyerl Exhibition Supporters Circle: Andrew Kreps Gallery, Eleanor Cayre, Nion McEvoy, and the Goethe-Institut New York.

With thanks to David Riff for the co-design of the exhibition, Christoph Manz for technical direction, Wilfried Lentz, Andrew Kreps, Alice Conconi, and Micha Amstad.



November, 2004

Digital video with sound, 25 mins
Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York
Director: Hito Steyerl
Editor: Stefan Landorf
Assistant: Yasmina Dekkar
Cast: Uli Maichle (Protagonist)
Commissioned by: Marta Kuzma for manifesta5
Supported by: Klaus, Mehmet Aktas, Peter Grabher, Lisa Rosenblatt

Lovely Andrea, 2007

Digital video with sound, 30 mins
Courtesy of the artist
Director: Hito Steyerl
Assistant Director: Asagi Ageha
Producer: Osada Steve
Editor: Stefan Landorf
Cast: Asagi Ageha (Performer)
Commissioned by: dOCUMENTA12
Supported by: Matthias J. Grimme, Sylvia Schedelbauer, and many others

Red Alert, 2007

Installation on 3 computer monitors
Courtesy of the artist

In Free Fall, 2010

HD video with sound, 30 mins
Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York
Director: Hito Steyerl
Technical Directors: Cristóvão A. dos Reis, Christoph Manz
Director of Photography: Kevan Jenson
Cast: Imri Kahn (Art Historian/Expert)
Commissioned by: Visualise This, Inc.; Marius Babias, nbk; Picture This, Bristol; Collective, Edinburgh; Chisenhale Gallery, London; Henie Onstad Museum, Oslo

Forthcoming Programs

Duty-Free Art
Hito Steyerl
Saturday, March 7, 5pm

Hito Steyerl
& Keller Easterling
Sunday, March 8, 5pm

Women Inc. Lexicon
Women Inc.
Wednesday, April 1, 7pm

This is Cosmos
Anton Vidokle, with Boris Groys
Screening & Conversation
Friday, April 10, 7pm

Guards, 2012

HD video on freestanding screen with sound, 20 mins
Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York
Director: Hito Steyerl
Assistant Director: Ben Thorp Brown, Alwin Franke (Berlin)
Director of Photography: Kevan Jenson
Producers: Ben Thorp Brown, Lisa Dorin, Tracy Parker
Production Manager: Tracy Parker
Editor: Cristóvão A. dos Reis (assisted by Maria Frycz)
Postproduction: Christoph Manz
Dolly Grip: Jordan Campagna
Cast: Corey Burage (Protagonist), Modesto Correa (Protagonist), Darrell Evans (Protagonist), Ron Hicks (Protagonist), Hito Steyerl (Security), Martin Whitfield (Protagonist)
Commissioned by: Art Institute of Chicago

I Dreamed a Dream: Politics in the Age of Mass Art Production, 2013

Documentation of a lecture given at Former West, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, March 2013
HD video with sound, 29 mins 28 secs
Courtesy of the artist
Recording: Former West project, Berlin; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
Cast: Apo, Neman Kara, Tina Leisch, Sahin Okay, Siyar, Selim Yildiz Commissioned by: Anton Vidokle for Agency of Unrealised Projects

Is the Museum a Battlefield?, 2013

Documentation of a lecture given at the 13th Istanbul Biennial
Two channel HD video with sound, 40 mins
Courtesy of the artist
Research: Necat Sunar
Translation: Kawa Nemir, Erkal Ünal Crew: Selim Yildiz, Tina Leisch, Ali Can, Neman Kara, Siyar, Sahin Okay, Apo, Christoph Manz, Maximilian Schmötzer, Leon Kahane
Music: Brian Kuan Wood
With thanks to Bilgin Ayata,
Esme Buden, Lisa Dorin, Övül Durmosoglu, Fulya Erdemci, Hendrik Folkerts, Kevser Güler, Human Rights Film Festival Istanbul, Diana McCarty, Rabih Mroué, Andrea Phillips, Oliver Rein, Necati Sönmez, Anton
Vidokle, 13th Istanbul Biennial

Liquidity, Inc., 2014

HD video with sound, 30 mins
Courtesy of the artist and Andrew Kreps, New York
Director: Hito Steyerl
Technical Director: Kevan Jenson
Director of Photography: Kevan Jenson
Lighting Director: Tony Rudenko
Cast: Maximilian Brauer (Weather Underground), Esme Buden (Weather Underground), Maverick “The Soulcollector” Harvey (MMA Expert), Rage Ng (MMA Expert), Brian Kuan Wood (Weather Underground), Jacob Wood
Initial ramp design: Studio Miessen, Berlin

Duty-Free Art, 2015

Documentation of a lecture (prerecording) given at Artists Space, New York, March 2015
Three channel HD video with sound, 38 mins 21 secs
Courtesy of the artist
Camera: Christoph Manz
Assistants: Micha Amstad, Savas Boyraz, Salih Selim, Leyla Topraz Supported by: HEAD, Geneva; Hendrik Folkerts, Lo schemo del Arte Florence; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam;
Frank Westermeier
With thanks to Richard Birkett, Ovul Durmosoglu, Fulya Erdemci, Adam Kleinman, Aya Moussawi, The Moving Museum Istanbul, Sener Özmen, Simon Sakhai, and Anton Vidokle

All programs will take place at:
Artists Space Books & Talks
55 Walker Street
NY 10013

$5 Entrance Donation
Members Free,
Guaranteed Entry

Duty-Free Art

Contemporary art thus becomes a proxy for the global commons, for the lack of any common ground, temporality, or space.

It is defined by a proliferation of locations, and a lack of accountability. It works by way of major real estate operations transforming cities worldwide as they reorganize urban space. It is even a space of civil wars that trigger art market booms a decade or so later through the redistribution of wealth by warfare. It takes place on servers and by means of fiber optic infrastructure, and whenever public debt miraculously transforms into private wealth.

First appeared in e-flux journal #63, 2015
Published by e-flux

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