Hito Steyerl is one of the most original, lucid and provocative artists and thinkers to address the contemporary status of the image and its myriad ramifications. Her work, through either video or writing, analyses the impact of the Internet on the rearrangement of subjects and their affections, on the changes to modes of perception and on the burgeoning power of the institutions that govern us. Circulationism, a term coined by the artist, aptly defines this new paradigm, whereby the Internet utopia has been replaced with a liquid and immaterial world of ubiquitous and monitored interconnected data, emotions and capital. Yet this same logic of multiplication, acceleration and recombination characterising a real and virtual storyline could also end up short-circuiting it.
This performance, serving as an introduction to Hito Steyerl’s retrospective in the Museo Reina Sofía, exemplifies circulationism and is devised as a posthumous homage to film-maker and artist Harun Farocki (1944–2014). It is developed as a double act that encircles contemporary war - invisible, automated and inescapably mixed together with tools of digital consumption and display, from YouTube to Google Earth. Steyerl’s lecture performance opens the session and lays out fragments of texts, ideas and documentary and internet images to discuss contemporary visual blindness. Kassem Mosse’s acoustic soundscape follows, and serves as a counterpoint to, the artist’s performance.
Hito Steyerl. Eye Explosion
In the film Eye-Machine Harun Farocki wrote about suicide cameras, devices that are fitted into missiles, home in on the target, collide with it and continue to broadcast images after the explosion. In Steyerl’s eyes, these cameras have mushroomed across the millions of lenses installed in mobile phones - zombie cameras, multiplied and incorporated into the owners’ movements and emotions. A series of trips made by the artist to Kobanî and Suruç, the scenes of the bloodiest battles between ISIS and Kurdish rebels, prompt an exploration into these new visible images, produced and interpreted by autonomous machines. What is this new reality that remains unperceived by the human eye, and what are the designs of the State that promotes it?
Kassem Mosse. Combat Zones that See
The intervention by DJ and sound artist Kassem Mosse approaches the sounds of war from an unexpected viewpoint. The performance reproduces military noise from the data analysis of patterns deployed in war, melding them with sounds from everyday and obsolete music technology. Mosse unfurls an acoustic soundscape that mixes industrialised combat sounds with soldiers’ consumer devices: the crack of gunfire with the hum of hard drives, tweets from mobile phones or Skype conversations with intermittent flashes from bullets fired.