Hito Steyerl (b. 1966, Munich, Germany) is an artist, filmmaker, and writer whose art speaks urgently to our digitally mediated era. In her work, she has addressed the wide-ranging effects of today’s mass proliferation and dissemination of images, issues of surveillance and militarization, and the evolving functions of technology in our networked culture.
Liquidity Inc. (2014) is a new acquisition to the ICA’s collection and is on view at the museum for the first time. As suggested by the title, this video sculpture uses water as its guiding theme, and has particular resonance at the ICA’s waterfront location. Liquidity Inc. takes as a point of departure the story of Jacob Wood, a former financial analyst who lost his job during the 2008 economic recession and decided to turn his hobby in mixed martial arts into a career. Steyerl follows actor and martial artist Bruce Lee’s dictum to “be shapeless, formless, like water,” turning “liquidity” into a trope fluid enough to speak about everything from the weather to water as material resource, to the circulation of information and assets. Projected onto a double-sided screen in front of a wave-like ramp structure, Liquidity Inc. is a captivating parable of economic crisis and contemporary culture that is by turns playful and poignant.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, e-flux journal: The Wretched of the Screen collects a number of Steyerl s landmark essays in which she has steadily developed her very own politics of the image. In Hito Steyerl's writing we begin to see how, even if the hopes and desires for coherent collective political projects have been displaced onto images and screens, we must look frankly at the technology that seals them in. Twisting the politics of representation around the representation of politics, these essays uncover a rich trove of information: on the formal shifts and distortions of accelerated capitalism; the art system as a vast mine of labor extraction and passionate commitment;, structural and literal violence; enchantment and fun; and of hysterical, uncontrollable flight through the wreckage of postcolonial and modernist discourses.