“How do people disappear in an age of total over-visibility? Are people hidden by too many images? Do they go hide amongst other images? Do they become images?” – Hito Steyerl
In my previous blog, I stated that one sometimes can wonder where politics end and art starts. In the case of Hito Steyerl (1966), one can wonder where the jokes stop and politics begin. Steyerl is a German artist who is trained in Japan at the Japan Institute of the Moving Image, got a Ph.D. in philosophy in Vienna and is a professor of new media art in Berlin.
Her How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File from 2013 is already knee-slapping funny right? Who puts fucking in the title? I did a very thorough research (it took me 35.5 seconds to be precise) and it turns out, only two other artists in the collection of the TATE had the audacity to use “fucking” in a title. Being, Bill Woodrow: English Heritage – Humpty Fucking Dumpty, and Martin Kippenberger Kippenberger on the Theme of Fucking, Boozing and Selling) so it might be a German thing.
Anyway, it’s a movie in which a voice over – a voiceover that makes your old ‘90s GPS voice sound like Morgan Freeman – is giving tips about how not to be seen. Tips about how to pursue invisibility that – when you look at the selfie/vlog/influencer culture of our time – are not likely to be in demand. I mean, who on earth is going off-screen and offline? It’s not you; you are reading my blog on a screen, on the Internet. With this movie, she is hinting at the ways that our technologies are everywhere and actually intruding our physical experiences – at all times.
One of the great tips are robot-voice is giving about becoming invisible are:
- being poor
- living in a gated community
- in a military zone
- Being a woman over 50
- owning an “anti-paparazzi handbag”
- being a dead pixel
Such useful tips, am I right? However, there is a political undertone, that easy enough to recognize and process. And that precisely is the quality of the work for me. It’s ambiguous enough to make you wonder, what the hell is this about? But if you get to LESSON V: HOW TO BECOME INVISIBLE BY MERGING INTO A WORLD MADE OF PICTURES. You get that it’s a critique of society’s ignorance towards the poor, the undocumented and turn a blind eye while hiding away in a gated community. Or the art world’s (might be the case in other fields as well) ignorance towards female artists that are over 50 years old. So, again, in the line of thought of Nato Thompson, because it is ambiguous to a certain level, it encourages enough to feed speculation. So it’s legible enough to impart ideas and engage the viewer in a level of ambiguity and is, therefore, able to explore the work. And it’s funny AF.
You can watch the full movie here:
And it’s on view for the people who are lucky enough to visit the TATE on Level 4: Media Networks