RANK & FILE From the Poor Image to Poetic Cinema: A Ranking of 20 Hito Steyerl Videos

Around this time last year, Artspace endeavored to rank all of Hito Steyerl’s single-screen works. This is ultimately an impossible task, of course, since they’re almost all great, and Charlie Markbreiter, who wrote the list, put them all at #1. It’s hard to disagree with that approach, and yet, the possibility of attempting a complete ranking of all of Steyerl’s video works, single and multiscreen, is irresistible. With her current exhibition on view at the Park Avenue Armory in New York through Sunday, and with a survey set to open at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Canada in October, we’ve made one valiant attempt, below.

17. Leonardo’s Submarine, 2019 Admittedly I’ve seen this one only through someone else’s YouTube video of it—but hey, Steyerl once wrote an essay about the dispersion of low-quality rips and copies online as a subversive strategy, and let’s defend the poor image, right? This work, now on view in the central show at the Venice Biennale in Italy, organized by Ralph Rugoff, ties together Leonardo da Vinci’s designs for a submarine, artificial intelligence, defense manufacturing, and environmental disaster, all in a matter of three-and-a-half minutes. It’s all a bit vague and overly obtuse, in a way that’s unusual for Steyerl’s research-based work.

16. Broken Windows, 2018–19 This two-part video installation explores the notion of broken windows as it relates to crime policy in Camden, New Jersey, and the smashing of glass panes to harvest data used to train an AI program that can recognize the sound of flying shards in London. The topics are a bit too disparate to gel, so the installation, which debuted at the Castello di Rivoli in Milan earlier this year and is now on view at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, never coheres, but at best, it acts as a formal showcase: Steyerl’s sound editing is top-notch in the pane-smashing half.

15. Strike, 2010 Steyerl walks over to a blank flat-screen TV, pushes a chisel into it, and walks away, leaving the monitor displaying an abstract pattern. It’s a throwaway effort, but it’s amusing nonetheless.

14. Red Alert, 2007 A simple piece: just three screens displaying looped monochromatic images of the color red—a reference both to a similar-looking Aleksandr Rodchenko triptych and terror alerts put out by the U.S Department of Homeland Security. This one is an early example of Steyerl’s attempts to expose the hidden forms of violence that exist in museum settings.

13. ExtraSpaceCraft, 2017 An oblique, jokey, quasi-science-fictional tale in which the Iraqi National Observatory becomes a space agency; it’s apparently shot from the point of view of a drone. This is ranked relatively low because it’s hard to make heads or tails of it—the digressive semi-narrative that Steyerl lays out is hard to follow, though with its various images of astronauts in CGI settings, it looks great. (A bonus: Be on the lookout for artist Trevor Paglen, who briefly appears as one of the cosmonauts.)




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