Digital Art

Understanding Hito Steyerl’s ‘Being Invisible Can Be Deadly’

“The situation most people face is that they are being visible all the time to certain modes of capture. That’s unfortunate I think because people might want to escape from this inordinate amount of — you know — constant surveillance. On the other hand being invisible can be deadly.”

Figure 1. Still from HOW NOT TO BE SEEN: A Fucking Didactic Educational .Mov File. by Hito Steyerl.

German filmmaker, visual artist, and writer Hito Steyerl has been working with new media, technology, and the consumption of images since the early 2000s. Steyerl’s trademark conceptual approach recurs throughout her 2013 video HOW NOT TO BE SEEN: A Fucking Didactic Educational .Mov File. The film “takes the form of an instructional video which flips playfully between ‘real world’ footage and digital recreations”(Tate, 2016). Steryerl genuine “dark humour” and “linguistic speculation” (aka wordplay), although apparently simple strategies, offers an inventory of evasion tactics for those “wary of Big Data”(Sparks, 2015).

The artist uses gestures, protocols, and escape techniques to illustrate the viewer how to become invisible. For example, she holds her iPhone in front of the camera that records her, acting out to take a picture she imposes a surface in front of her face which obscures her eyes from the audience — i.e. she becomes invisible.

Figure 2. Still from HOW NOT TO BE SEEN: A Fucking Didactic Educational .Mov File. by Hito Steyerl. Video by Tate Shots, Tate, 2016.

Steryerl‘s experience as a cameraperson and her background in Cinema influenced her work and inspired her to question the viewer’s perception of reality through finely balancing humour and critique.

In the Tate Shot’s trailer for HOW NOT TO BE SEEN — work which was displayed at the Tate in 2016 — she reveals her starting point, the initial idea: Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch made in the 1970s and also called “How Not To Be Seen”.


Bibliography:

Tate. (n.d.). Hito Steyerl born 1966 | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/hito-steyerl-22462 [Accessed 12 Oct. 2018].

Tate. (2016). Hito Steyerl — ‘Being Invisible Can Be Deadly’ | TateShots. [Online Video]. 17 May 2017. Available from: https://youtu.be/kKAKgrZZ_ww. [Accessed: 12 October 2018].

Tate. (2016). Hito Steyerl: ‘Being invisible can be deadly’ — TateShots | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/hito-steyerl-22462/hito-steyerl-being-invisible-can-be-deadly [Accessed 12 Oct. 2018].

Sparks, K. (2015). To Cut and To Swipe: Understanding Hito Steyerl Through “HOW NOT TO BE SEEN” — Momus. [online] Momus. Available at: http://momus.ca/to-cut-and-to-swipe-understanding-hito-steyerl-through-how-not-to-be-seen/ [Accessed 12 Oct. 2018].

En.wikipedia.org. (2018). Hito Steyerl. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hito_Steyerl [Accessed 12 Oct. 2018].


Originally published at francescoimola.tumblr.com.

“Do Artifacts Have Politics?” By Langdon Winner. A reflection.

Landon Winner is a political theorist whose work focuses on contemporary political thought, race, technology, and social theory. “Do Artifacts Have Politics?” is a journal article by Winner published in 1980. Through this thorough [and to some extents alienating] research paper, the authour claims that artifacts, here intended as technical objects, have political properties and can embody forms of authority and subordination. He suggests that we pay close attention to the properties of the technologies that surround us and the meaning of those properties.

Winner provides examples of technical systems of various kind which at first sight may not explicitly express any form of political intent, but have in reality been designed to produce concrete social consequences. See the parkways erected around Long Island by Robert Moses in the 1930s and the introduction of the Mechanical Tomato Harvester in 1949.

These examples show how some technologies have been deployed to discriminate, pose threats, and maintain a regime of power where skilled leaders are those making choices. Workers are not given the right to participate in the decision-making process which rules how technology influences the way people connect with each other.

While some artifacts are widely believed to require social structures in which those can operate, others are thought to work well in conjunction with specific systems of power and authority (Winner, 1980). However, the author states that certain technologies are inherently autocratic and must require particular social structures for their implementation. The atom bomb in one of those.

Winner contrasts nuclear power with solar power, which is decentralized and doesn’t represent a security risk. It is inherently democratic and populist (Innovation Group, University of California, n.d.).


References:

Winner, L. (1980). Do Artifacts Have Politics?. Daedalus, Modern Technology: Problem or Opportunity? (Winter, 1980), [online] Vol. 109,(№1), pp.pp. 121–136. Available at: http://innovate.ucsb.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Winner-Do-Artifacts-Have-Politics-1980.pdf[Accessed 2 Oct. 2018].

Innovation Group · University of California, Santa Barbara. (n.d.). Innovation Group — Langdon Winner, “Do Artifacts Have Politics?”. [online] Available at: http://innovate.ucsb.edu/463-langdon-winner-do-artifacts-have-politics[Accessed 2 Oct. 2018].


Originally published at francescoimola.tumblr.com.