Who Are They?

Who is Hito Steyerl?

Have you ever wanted to be invisible? Find out how with artist Hito Steyerl

Still from Hito Steyerl video

Hito Steyerl How Not to Be Seen...MOV File 2013
Video still, Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

Being fitted with an invisibility cloak and being a superhero are two of the things Hito Steyerl suggests trying if you want to be invisible. She also suggests hiding away in a house with big security gates and wearing a box over your head.

Hito Steyerl is an artist, filmmaker and writer. She is also a performer and often does 'performance-lectures', that are a cross between a talk and a performance. She was born in Germany in 1967, studied filmmaking in Japan, and now lives and works in Berlin.

Steyerl is most famous for her dazzling films and videos in which she layers lots of different themes and images. They are entertaining and funny but also really clever, (so clever they should probably be shown with a warning that they'll make your head spin and your mind boggle!)

Hito Steyerl How Not to Be Seen...MOV File 2013 Video still

Hito Steyerl How Not to Be Seen...MOV File 2013
Video still, Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

Her films sometimes look a bit like video games, because she uses digital recreations of settings and virtual realities as well as real places in her work. In fact in her films you can never quite tell what is real and what is pretend. She also often fakes things like news reports or government broadcasts to add more confusion! This is what one journalist said about her work:

'With Steyerl, you can't always tell fact from fabulation, where the jokes end and seriousness begins, what is truth and what is a lie'

Where do her ideas come from?

Hito Steyerl is fascinated by the amount of images that we are bombarded with every day. She is also fascinated by the digital technologies used to make and circulate these images around the world. In her work she explores what images show, why they are made, and what effect they have on the way we think and how we see the world.

Hito Steyerl’s work has been described as ‘an art for our times’ because the themes she uses are very much about what is happening right now. She has been inspired by everything from dance moves to TV to modern architecture; and she even investigates philosophy and mathematics. She also deals with social and political issues that she feels strongly about, such as women’s rights, political corruption and the horror of conflict and war.

How does he make her work?

To make her films and lecture-performances, Steyerl does lots of research, interviewing people and investigating the subjects she wants to include. She also hunts out images and bits of film from TV, the internet, from art and art history and all sorts of other places.

She then puts these together using sampling techniques, adding in her own digitally created pictures, to create dazzling film collages that sometimes look like a serious scientific documentary and sometimes look magical and to dreamlike.

Let’s take a closer look…

For How Not to Be Seen 2013 Steyerl uses the idea of a ‘how to’ video – the type of video that provides instructions on how to make or do something. A confusing mix of real and fake settings is shown (including a virtual reality tour of a posh gated community and a real desert that was once used for military activities). People also appear in the video including some who wear black-and-white boxes on their heads and dance, disappearing into abstract pixels.

Hito Steyerl How Not to Be Seen...MOV File 2013 Video still

Hito Steyerl How Not to Be Seen...MOV File 2013
Video still, Image courtesy of the Artist and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

While the film is shown, a voice which sounds like the sort of voice you might hear on TV adverts or in cinema announcements, tells us 'how to become invisible'

According to the voice's instructions there are lots of ways we can become invisible: from serious things such as being poor or being put in prison, to practical approaches such as using camouflage or hiding in gated communities. If all else fails, there are always the super hero or invisibility cloak options!

How Not to Be Seen shows that not being seen can be depressing and but is also liberating! As sometimes it's quite nice to hide and not be found.

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