This year, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art presented the US premiere of Hito Steyerl’s video installation Factory of the Sun (2015), the source of our October issue‘s cover. The work presents sunlight as a metaphor for digital media, and though its visuals are modeled on those of computer games, the viewer has no control over the action. The protagonists of Factory of the Sun confront the paradox that light affects fields of human activity as diverse as pain, economics, and the circulation of images despite having no material presence.
Steyerl’s films and essays explore the idea that the properties of digital images can reveal social realities, and that images can be challenged in order to determine the amount of freedom individuals have to maneuver in the world beyond the screen.
Steyerl has provided insight into her research process by selecting three videos that are connected to Factory of the Sun, which is now on view at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the exhibition “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016.” They include the sound of the sun, a dance to a Daft Punk song, and a play-through of the game Metal Gear Solid 4 that runs over nine hours. Other sources of Steyerl’s inspiration include a scientific anomaly, the sun’s role in the communist revolution (a result of its high capital value), and a bank’s ambition to be faster than the system, at any cost.