Hito Steyerl – Liquidity Inc [Osaka]

Hito Steyerl’s films and essays articulate the contemporary status of images, and of image politics, in the digital age. Central to her practice is the notion that global communication technologies, and the mediation of the world through circulating images, have had a dramatic impact on our conception of culture, economics and of subjectivity itself. As Brian Kuan Wood has written, Steyerl’s works “take the digital image as a point of departure for entering a world in which a politics of dazzle manifests as collective desire.”[1] That is to say, when images and reality become blurred, when “war, genocide, capital flows, digital detritus, and class warfare always take place partially within images,”[2] the distinction between the virtual and the ‘real world’ is no longer valid. Through the Internet, and an all-pervasive semiotic flux, communicative capitalism is actively redefining subjectivity and our relationship to reality. Within this electronic space of flows, Steyerl’s filmmaking and writing occupies a highly discursive position between the fields of art, philosophy and politics, constituting a deep exploration of accelerated ‘cognitive’ capitalism’s social, cultural and financial imaginaries. For Take Me To The River, Steyerl presented a site-specific installation of her recent video, Liquidity Inc. (2014), viewed from a giant wave-like ramp, lined with Judo mats, located in the underground parking lot of the Forum, surrounded by aquatic blue walls, marking the rising water level overhead. The 30-minute film is a free association on the notion of fluidity, particularly in relation to economics, the precarious conditions of post-Fordist labour and to climatic catastrophe, drawing parallels between financial storms, the flow of people and turbulent weather systems circulating around the globe. “Water can flow or it can crash,” advises Bruce Lee’s voiceover, at the outset of the film, “Be formless, be shapeless… Be water, my friend.”[3] While Steyerl’s past works often use appropriated narrative structures; How Not to Be Seen. A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013), for example, taking the form of a seven-point education video, teaching us how to disappear in an age of surveillance; Liquidity Inc. evades a formal linear narrative, with its slippery flow of images and ideas. In part, it tells the story of Jacob Wood, a financial analyst who lost his job when investment bank Lehman Brothers went under in 2008. Born in Vietnam and a war orphan, Wood came to the US under Gerald Ford’s Operation Babylift. He got into banking during the dotcom boom of the 1990s but, when the economic crash hit, he switched fields to fight professionally in Mixed Martial Arts, which had previously been his hobby. Meanwhile, the tempestuous economic weather systems ahead are forecast by a pair of terrorist meteorologists, dressed in owl-faced tee shirts and balaclavas (inspired by the 1970s militant leftwing group The Weather Underground), one of them a child, predicting cloud-busting incursions on the prevailing corporate gloom. In the background the screen surges with electronically enhanced GIFs of Hokusai’s The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, flashing on a wall of Tumblr blogs, while Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus flaps its wings in a corner of the screen, like an aberrant storm warning. In a parallel dimension, water itself tells its own version of Jacob Wood’s story, whilst relating an alien view of the planet in CGI-animated watery lettering, spelled out on the horizon of an endless sea, advising us that: “I am water and I am not from here. My home is outer space… Some would like to claim me as a native of earth, but in fact, even though I cover this planet, I am not from here. Nor are you. I run through your veins. Your eyes. Your touch screens and portfolios. I am gushing through your heart, plumbing and wires. I am liquidity incorporated.”[4]

Hito Steyerl





== Text by Tom Trevor, written for 4th Dojima River Biennale catalogue ==

[1] The Internet Does Not Exist, edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle, 2015

[2] Ibid.

[3] Liquidity Inc., Hito Steyerl, 2014

[4] Ibid.


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