Hito Steyerl (born 1 January 1966) is a German filmmaker, moving image artist, writer, and innovator of the essay documentary. Her principal topics of interest are media, technology, and the global circulation of images. Steyerl holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. She is currently a professor of New Media Art at the Berlin University of the Arts, where she co-founded the Research Center for Proxy Politics, together with Vera Tollmann and Boaz Levin .
Life and career
Steyerl was born on 1 January 1966 in Munich and attended the Japan Institute of the Moving Image. She later studied at the University of Television and Film Munich. Steyerl was deeply influenced by Harun Farocki, although she has cited her former professor, the noted film historian Helmut Färber, as having a more direct influence on her work.
In 2004 she participated in Manifesta 5, The European Biennial of Contemporary Art. She has also participated in the 2008 Shanghai Biennale and the 2010 Gwangju and Taipei biennials. In 2007, her film Lovely Andrea was exhibited as a part of documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany. In 2013 her work was included in the Venice Biennale and the Istanbul Biennial. In 2015, her work was included in the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 2019, it was featured in the Arsenale of the Venice Biennale.
Hito Steyerl’s work pushes the boundary of traditional video, often obscuring what is real beneath many layers of metaphors and satirical humor. She referred to her piece, Red Alert, as "the outer limit of video". It consisted of three monitors playing a video of pure red, representing Lovely Andrea, as well as symbolizing the extreme danger and lust that had become a normality.
Her work concerns topics of militarization, surveillance migration, the role of media in globalization, and the dissemination of images and the culture surrounding it. Steyerl has pushed both the role and the label of fine artist, which is demonstrated through her tendencies and interests in engaging the presentational context of art. Her work is developed from research, interviews, and the collection of found images, culminating in pedagogically-oriented work in the realm of forensic documentaries and dream-like montages.
In 2017, Steyerl was listed as the number one most influential person in the contemporary art world.
In recent years, Steyerl's work has expanded to confront the status of images in an increasingly digital world, institutions (including museums), networks, and labor. Her work has addressed the topic of corporate sponsorship by engaging with institutions, including Drill in 2019 at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, for which Steyerl revealed histories connecting the building hosting the exhibition with the founding of the National Rifle Association. On the topic of private funding, Steyerl has expressed: 'Ultimately, it will be important to move beyond protests against individuals and try to frame the problems more generally in terms of a new charter for the art world: a set of principles that include different aspects, like pay, sponsorship, governance, transparency standards, representation, sustainability, and so on, like a new deal for museums.' Steyerl employs increasingly complex approaches to editing, digital graphics, and video installation architecture.
Steyerl has had numerous solo exhibitions, including:
- Hito Steyerl, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2010)
- Hito Steyerl, E-flux, New York (2012)
- Hito Steyerl, Art Institute of Chicago, (2012)
- Hito Steyerl, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (2014)
- Hito Steyerl, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2014)
- En defensa de la imagen pobre ("In defense of the poor image") and Arte, control y dominación. 3 películas de Hito Steyerl ("Art, control and domination. 3 films of Hito Steyerl"), MUNTREF as part of the Bienal de la Imagen en Movimiento (BIM) (2014)
- Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational Installation, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York (2014)
- Hito Steyerl, Artists Space, New York (2015)
- Hito Steyerl, Left To Our Own Devices, KOW, Berlin (2015)
- Hito Steyerl, Duty-Free Art , Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2015)
- Hito Steyerl, Factory of the Sun, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2016)
- Hito Steyerl, Factory of the Sun, Hartware MedienKunstVerein in the Dortmunder U, Dortmund, Germany (2016)
- Hito Steyerl, This is the Future, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada (2020)
Steyerl has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including:
- Dispersion, Institute of Contemporary Arts (2008)
- International Film Festival Rotterdam (2010)
- The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds After 1989, Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany (2011)
- No one lives here, Royal College of Art (2013)
- Bad Thoughts, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2014)
- Cut To Swipe, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014)
- A screaming comes across the sky, LABoral, Gijón, Spain (2015)
- MashUp: the Birth of Modern Culture, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver (2015)
- Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016)
- Hito Steyerl, Ben Rivers, Wang Bing. Eye Art & Film Prize, EYE Film Institute Netherlands, Amsterdam (2018)
- Au-delà du Terroir, Beyond AI Art — Hito Steyerl; Mario Klingemann; Refik Anadol; Robbie Barrat; Aican; Iconem; Emily Spratt, Thomas Fan, and Alain Passard, GFAIH, Institut de France, Paris (2019)
- Lovely Andrea (2007)
- Red Alert (2007)
- How to Not Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)
- Is the Museum a Battlefield? (2013)
- Liquidity Inc. (2014)
- Factory of the Sun (2015)
- Drill (2019)
How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File
In 2013 Steyerl released her video How Not to Be Seen, presenting five lessons in invisibility. These lessons include how to 1. Make something invisible for a camera, 2. Be invisible in plain sight, 3. Become invisible by becoming a picture, 4. Be invisible by disappearing, and 5. Become invisible by merging into a world made of pictures. Many of these methods may seem impossible. How Not to Be Seen is a satirical take on instructional films. Much of the video also deals with surveillance and digital imagery: for example, figures in all black dance around as "pixels," and aerial photography features frequently. Thus, How Not to be Seen becomes a tutorial for invisibility in an age of intense hypersurveillance.
Liquidity, Inc., (from 2014) consists of a video and a seating/backdrop installation. The video includes interviews with Jason Wood, a financial-advisor-turned-MMA-fighter, mesmerizing clips of ocean waves, and mock-weather reports from characters in balaclavas. As these visuals swirl around, a metaphor forms between water and images/money/trend in the digital age.
Factory of the Sun
Factory of the Sun, like Liquidity, Inc. deals with finance. In this video, which debuted at the 2015 Venice Biennial, clip art people swarm and create "artificial sunshine" for a bank. The video utilizes light, sunshine, and warmth as motifs as it explores surveillance and mega-finance.
In 2010 Steyerl was awarded with the NEW:VISION Award at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival for her film In Free Fall. In 2015 Steyerl won the inaugural EYE Prize, a collaboration between EYE Film Institute Netherlands and the Paddy & Joan Leigh Fermor Arts Fund. The aim of the award is to support and promote an artist or filmmaker who have made outstanding contributions to their field.
Steyerl is a frequent contributor to online art journals such as E-flux. She has also written:
- 2007. Steyerl, Hito. "Documentary Uncertainty," in A Prior Magazine Issue #15.
- 2009. Steyerl, Hito. "The Institution of Critique," in Art and Contemporary Critical Practice: Reinventing Institutional Critique. Mayflybooks/Ephemera. Edited by Gerald Raunig and Gene Ray ISBN 978-1906948023
- 2009. Steyerl, Hito. "In Defense of the Poor Image," in E-flux Issue #10.
- 2010. Steyerl, Hito. "A Think Like You and Me," in E-flux Issue #15.
- 2012. Steyerl, Hito, and Berardi, Franco. The Wretched of the Screen. Sternberg Press. ISBN 978-1-934105-82-5.
- 2014. Steyerl, Hito. Hito Steyerl: Too Much World. Sternberg Press. Edited by Nick Aikens. ISBN 9783956790577
- 2016. Steyerl, Hito. Jenseits der Repräsentation / Beyond Representation: Essays 1999-2009. Walther König. Edited by Marius Babias, contributions by Thomas Elsässer and Simon Sheik. ISBN 978-3865608932
- 2016. Steyerl, Hito. "If You Don’t Have Bread, Eat Art!: Contemporary Art and Derivative Fascisms," in E-flux Issue #76.
- 2017. Steyerl, Hito. Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War. Verso. ISBN 978-1786632432
- [Hito Stereyl, MoMA Learning https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/hito-steyerl-how-not-to-be-seen-a-fucking-didactic-educational-mov-file-2013]
- Hito Steyerl | Politics of Post-Representation, In conversation with Marvin Jordan, DIS Magazine
- Andrew Kreps Gallery at Ocula