With her mesmerizing post-digital videos and documentations of lecture-performances, Hito Steyerl proves herself one of the most intriguing and profound artists around. She deals with the circulation of data and images, the slippages between truths and fictions, the destabilizations of digital culture, the political implications of hypercapitalism, and the migration of found images across different contexts—and somehow makes it all fascinating.
Her double survey at Artists Space included eight existing videos and one new work in an installation she conceived. Opening with Red Alert (2007), a computer-monitor triptych that politicizes the monochrome, the show included In Free Fall (2010), which weaves a web of connections among a plummeting parachutist, Howard Hughes, the stock-market crash, the Entebbe rescue, a crashing passenger plane, and the Mojave Desert airplane graveyard. This unsettling biography of an object collapsed, destroyed, and recycled its subject as a spectacularly exploding Hollywood prop while viewers reclined in first-class seats surrounded by blue emergency-exit lights. Equally engrossing was Liquidity, Inc. (2014), which, in a space suffused with blue light, explored the various conditions of liquidity: economic, physical, metaphorical, and digital.
In Lovely Andrea (2007), which debuted in Documenta 12, Steyerl searches for a photograph of herself as a teenage bondage girl in Tokyo. Her video installations of lecture-performances, such as Is the Museum a Battlefield? (2013), convincingly linked military conflict with the history of art museums (built for economic or political ends, stormed during revolutions), and compared a Kodak camera with a Colt revolver and “mass art production” with the spread of firearms. Her new Duty-Free Art (2015) exposes the economic and geopolitical implications of the new “freeport” art-storage facilities in “extralegal” warehouses around the world. In a few short years Steyerl, who now occupies the German Pavilion in the 2015 Venice Biennale, has produced an oeuvre that ranks with and updates that of Johan Grimonprez and Pipilotti Rist.
A version of this story originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 76.