“Are we allowed to be here?” I asked my friend when we emerged onto the fifth floor of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). But, after being there for a few short moments, I was able to spot the exhibit I came there for: Hito Steyerl: This is the future.
Taking up the entire fifth level of the David & Vivian Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art, there were not many people at the exhibit with us, which made the experience more enjoyable. No overcrowding and intriguing pieces of work? It was truly an introvert’s dream.
Born in 1966, Hito Steyerl is a German artist, filmmaker, and writer. Additionally, she is a professor of Art and Multimedia at the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany. She also has solo exhibitions all around the world, including in Italy and Brazil.
Hito Steyerl: This is the future features some of Steyerl’s works from the last 15 years, including Liquidity Inc. (2014) and Hell Yeah We Fuck Die (2016).
Liquidity Inc. is a 30-minute documentary that tells the story of Jacob Wood, a Korean financial advisor, who gets fired from work and later takes up martial arts and professional fighting. “That’s what makes it exciting, that’s what keeps things liquid, and fluid,” says Wood.
The documentary explores the idea of the digital world and its relationship to climate change. The film connects all of these concepts through one single answer: water. Yes, water. I was a bit confused at first, but that’s because I was only taking it at its surface level. Water is connected to technologies (Google Glass), the internet, and immigration.
Steyerl’s film discusses the notion that we are all water: “I run through your veins. Your eyes. Your touchscreens and portfolios. I am gushing through your heart, plumbing and wires. I am liquidity incorporated… torrent, cloud, capital, numbers.”
Hell Yeah We Fuck Die, as Steyerl explains it, are the five most-used English words in song titles. There are a few videos displayed in this part of the exhibit. The videos showcase things technology related, such as robots and Siri.
The words Hell Yeah We Fuck Die are used to predict the future of humans if we continue down the route of robots and artificial intelligence. She displays an image of flawed robots who do not live up to their expectations. Hell Yeah We Fuck Die is an exciting exhibit that explores our technological world and how it will degenerate if we rely on robots.
These pieces are only a small fraction of Steyerl’s work that is available to see at the AGO. Steyerl explores technology and political issues in her work that is relevant in today’s society. She tells stories in her pieces through her signature essayistic documentary style.
AGO describes her documentary as: “poetic narration supported by a unique blend of pop cultural images, documentary footage, and computer-animated sequences.” So, if exploring the frightening future of humans and society is something that piques your interest, this exhibit is just the thing for you.
Hito Steyerl: This is the future runs until February 23, 2020.