December 21, 2012 - e-flux - Hito Steyerl exhibition extended through January 5th
December 21, 2012

Hito Steyerl exhibition extended through January 5th

A scene from “Adorno’s Grey,” one of three videos by the Berlin-based artist and writer Hito Steyerl that make up her New York solo debut, at e-flux. Photo: e-flux.

Hito Steyerl exhibition extended through January 5th

Due to popular demand, we are happy to extend Hito Steyerl’s exhibition, currently on view at e-flux, through January 5, 2012. Please note that e-flux will close for holidays between December 24 and January 2. We also want to share this New York Times review with you:

Memorials, Along With Some Mischief
Hito Steyerl Has New York Solo Debut at e-flux

By Holland Cotter
Published in The New York Times December 20, 2012

The New York solo debut of the Berlin-based artist and writer Hito Steyerl at e-flux is one of the best gallery shows of the season. Ms. Steyerl works primarily in video, but defines the medium broadly to include documentary, staged history, what look like found film images and the near-equivalent of home movies.

The earliest of the three videos here, “November,” from 2004, begins with clips from a film that Ms. Steyerl made when she was 17. In it she and a childhood friend, Andrea Wolf, play ninja revolutionaries, assaulting bad guys with scowls, sexy punk outfits and karate chops. A voice-over by Ms. Steyerl tells us that Wolf eventually became a real armed revolutionary in the Kurdish liberation movement and died near the Iraqi border in 1998, probably executed by the Turkish Army.

But we don’t get all the information in this order. Chunks are missing, or plugged in odd places, interspersed with what look like outtakes from commercial spy films. Is an assassination by gunshot to the head lifted from a teenage lark, a B-movie or a news report? Shuffling reality and fiction is Ms. Steyerl’s mode, and we encounter it again in a short new two-channel video called “Abstract.”

This is a more straightforward memorial tribute to Wolf, measured, even stately, without the elaborate, quick-cut indirections of the earlier piece. On one screen we see Ms. Steyerl visiting the bleak site where her friend died. Accompanied by a Kurdish guide, she sifts through clothing from a mass grave and examines ammunition casings. On the other screen she’s in Berlin taking cellphone pictures of an office of Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of assault weapons sold by the German government to the Turkish Army.

The paired images read clearly as reflective gestures of mourning and indictment. Yet there’s no sense that Wolf’s story has been resolved, that her spirit has been laid to rest. We still have no idea how she arrived at that desolate place, or what role she conceived herself as playing there, or whether, in Ms. Steyerl’s view, she died a hero or in vain.

The third video is equally questioning and unanswering, although with a lighter, or at least less personal, subject. Titled “Adorno’s Grey” and made this year, it comes close to presenting radical politics as farce. Entirely staged, it’s set at the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt in the lecture hall where the philosopher and social critic Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969) once taught and where, according to legend, he had the walls painted gray to induce student concentration.

In the unsettled 1960s Adorno was first embraced as a leftist thinker and then accused of using his teaching to discourage anti-establishment activism. At a lecture in 1969 three of his female students, in what was intended as a liberating intervention, bared their breasts in class and showered him with flower petals. He left the hall abruptly, never returned, and died soon afterward.

In Ms. Steyrel’s film, projected across a stack of upright panels that create a broken surface, we watch two contemporary art conservators in lab coats chipping away at the lecture hall walls in search of a layer of that mythical gray. As they work, a woman’s voice delivers a joking account of the disrupted class and Adorno’s reaction. Then, after a pause, a man describes how he carried a book by Adorno as a symbolic shield in a recent political demonstration and, through this seemingly absurdist gesture, succeeded in confounding the riot police.

Here as elsewhere, Ms. Steyerl refuses to nail down a single idea, or insist on a point of view. Instead, we get art — her video — as an act of moral thinking-in-progress. In a very of-the-moment, digital-age way, the logic of that thinking is fractured, the nature of morality suspect. But a belief in the necessity of thinking, restlessly, politically, never is in doubt.

A larger show of the artist’s work is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through Jan. 27. A book of her essays, “Hito Steyerl: The Wretched of the Screen,” was published this fall by Sternberg Press in Berlin and e-flux in New York. Both are important.

Hito Steyerl continues through Jan. 5 at e-flux, 311 East Broadway, at Grand Street, Lower East Side; (212) 619-3356,

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