Hito Steyerl 101

by Chris Stults, Associate Curator, Film/Video

Tue, Jan 23, 2018

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Hito Steyerl

If you’re someone who reads up on the art world or travels to see art exhibitions or bienials, then you’re well aware of German filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl. Her installations have become ubiquitous at international art events and the same with her writing (and writing about her) in art journals. She even topped ArtReview’s annual Power 100 ranking—the first woman artist to take that spot, which prompted numerous columnists to admire this as a clear indication of the rankings prioritizing ideas over money.  

To my knowledge, Steyerl’s work has never shown in Columbus so her visit on Friday marks a major event for anyone even mildly interested in art or film. If you’d like to know more, here are some quick links to check out before her lecture.

This New York Times article from last month is a good layman’s introduction to her work and ideas.  

Even though Steyerl shows her work almost exclusively in gallery, musem, and art contexts, as the Times article points out, “she sees herself first and foremost as a filmmaker.” It’s worth noting that she began her career as an assistant to Wim Wenders and under the spell of New German Cinema. Her early videos, such as November (2004) and Lovely Andrea (2007), were personal essay films made for cinemas and influenced by filmmakers such as Harun Farocki and Chris Marker. You can get a sense of these still radical works by watching November, one of the few videos of this period available online.

Starting in 2010 with the acclaimed essay film In Free Fall, Steyerl began developing her videos to be presented in increasingly ambitious installation environments, most recently with Factory of the Sun (2015) and Hell Yeah We Fuck Die (2016). Her work also begins to analyze the digital image much more thoroughly at this time. Her brilliant, Monty Python-influenced 2013 video How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File can be viewed here.

Her “lecture performances” and her writings are among the most discussed and debated articles about art (and beyond) of our time. Her newest collection of essays and transcriptions of talks, Duty-Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War (on sale in the Wexner Center Store) gives you a sense of its scope with chapter titles such as, “Is the Internet Dead?”; “How to Kill People: A Problem of Design”; and “Why Games, or, Can Art Workers Think?” Another good starting point is her 2009 essay In Defense of the Poor Image, a landmark of 21st century criticism.

Join us and Ohio State’s Department of History of Art in welcoming the artist to Columbus and please note that, although the event is free, tickets are required and they’re moving quickly.

Images: Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen. A Fucking Didactic Educational .Mov File (still), 2013; Hell Yeah We Fuck Die, 2016, three-channel HD video file, 4 minutes, 35 seconds. Installation view, Skulptur Projekte Munster, Germany, Jun 10 – Oct 1, 2017.