Hito Steyerl at Pavilion, Leeds

Video still: Hito Steyerl, In Free Fall, 2010

Video still: Hito Steyerl, In Free Fall, 2010. Co-commissioned by Collective, Picture This and Chisenhale Gallery

There are occasions when a daily blog commitment is a touch frustrating. Posting about Hito Steyerl’s wonderful work is going to be one of those frustrating moments because it deserves far more discussion/analysis/thought than I can possibly give it if I am to say anything at all today. I could, I admit, leave the post to another time for when I have the capacity to do further reading and thinking, but that time is not going to happen on this year of Postaday2011.

Hito Steyerl is an artist, writer and film-maker based in Berlin, and her video films In Free Fall (2010), November (2004) and Lovely Andrea (2007) were screened this week by Pavilion in Leeds. Pavilion is a gem of an organisation providing a serious local cultural resource. It collaborates with artists, curators and thinkers to research, realise and programme contemporary art, and likes to actively engage audiences as part of the process. So the screenings were followed by conversations between the artist with Mike Sperlinger (writer and Assistant Director, LUX), Griselda Pollock (Professor of the Social and Critical Histories of Art, University of Leeds) and Gail Day (Senior Lecturer, University of Leeds).

Hito Steyerl’s work is essentially concerned with the notion of the image; specifically, problems of the image, and how the status of images change depending on how and where and in what context they are seen. She is concerned with the politics of art; not in the sense of art which deals with or represents political issues, but in the way art actually works politically. Her most recent essay, Politics of Art, has been printed by Pavilion and you can get a copy by e-mailing gill@pavilion.org.uk.

What did I love about her work? Pretty much everything. The compelling idiosynchratic juxtaposition of imagery. The visual and more abstract leitmotifs. The light touch of humour. The rich layering. This is film work which calls for repeated viewing, as interesting complexities may only become apparent after months, maybe years. In her linking of the superficially un-linkable, she encourages the viewer to see things in a different light. She acknowledges that she does not look to impose a narrative when making a film. Rather, she lets the material find its own synergies and connections. So it’s not surprising that that readings of her work may have nothing to do with her prevailing intentions, but Steyerl is okay with this. How we, the viewers, respond to the work completes it. She is not immune from this; it had been some time since she had seen  November and Lovely Andrea, and laughingly admitted to new editing ideas in the course of watching, and the potential for a further film to complete a trilogy…

I liked her clear, honest yet authoritative and thoughtful responses and conversational approach. I hope she visits Leeds again. A wonderful and thought provoking encounter with art.

If you have the opportunity to view Hito Steyerl’s work, jump at it.





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