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Steyerl, Hitofree

German, 20th–21st century, female.

Active in Berlin.

Born 1 January 1966, in Munich.


Hito Steyerl has studied film in Japan as well as Germany, and currently teaches at the Berlin University of the Arts. She also holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria, and is a frequent contributor to a variety of online art journals, including e-flux. Steyerl’s work as a filmmaker transcends the notion of documentary filmmaking as a straightforward means of questioning and the dissemination of accumulated information. Steyerl’s films visualise the turbulence of questions without answers by utilising mixed narrative and confusing juxtapositions of images with competing, overlaid audio. Steyerl’s conflicting version of the documentary format seeks to raise questions surrounding contemporary globalised culture without making any hard-line conclusions or assertions about her modes of interest and questioning.

Although much of Steyerl’s work deals with images and information, and how they are created and spread at lightning speed throughout the world, some of her earlier works such as November (2004) and Abstract (2012) deal with a personal subject writ large onto a global context. Loosely, these films are centred on Steyerl’s childhood friend Andrea Wolf, a German citizen who eventually joined Kurdish resistance forces as a soldier and was executed by the Turkish army in Kurdistan in 1998. At the very beginning of November, we see footage of Wolf, Steyerl, and another girl in her late teens beating up men in vacant lots. Via voiceover, Steyerl explains that this was her first movie, and because no sound or dialogue was recorded during filming, the specifics of the plot have since been lost. The film then goes on to show video footage of Wolf as a soldier with the Kurdish resistance in Iraq from a Kurdish television station. Steyerl has a friend translate the video for her, and he begins laughing, explaining that the director of the film actually lives around the corner from him. In Abstract, Steyerl travels to Kurdistan to visit the mass grave where Wolf was executed and is presumably buried. This bizarre juxtaposition of personal experiences, friendship, and military and documentary filmmaking highlight the contemporary compression of global occurrences into a pastiche of fragmentary information.

Most of Steyerl’s films utilise similar collages of disparate sounds and images. The fascination with an increasingly militarised culture is apparent through the film Guards (2012), which shuns the notion that the white cube gallery maintains (or ever had) any cultural neutrality through interviews with museum guards who have previous military experience. Additionally, Steyerl asserts that valued cultural sites such as the Louvre, the Hermitage, and Potsdamer Platz have long been sites of historical attack and discord, and her ongoing participation as an artist dealing with these revolutionary histories is a form of subversive activism through art making.

Group Exhibitions

2008, Dispersion, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

2008, Documentary Uncertainties, Toronto

2008, International Film Festival, Rotterdam

2008, New York Underground Film Festival, New York

2008, This Is How History Is Written, Casa Encendida, Madrid

2009, Cultural Memories/Recits Paralells, Galerie Fabienne Leclerc, Paris

2009, FallMauerfall, Statmuseum Berlin, Berlin

2009, The Storyteller, ICI Audio video disco Kunsthalle, Zurich

2010, 1st Ural Industrial Biennial, National Center for Contemporary Art, Ekaterinburg

2010, Hangi Insan Haklari? Documentarist, Istanbul Un Lugar Fuera de la Historia, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City

2010, International Film Festival, Rotterdam

2010, Loop Festival, La Virreina Centre de l‘Imatge, Barcelona

2010, The Storyteller, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

2011, Antiphotojournalism, Foam Photography Museum, Amsterdam

2011, Big Picture II (Zeitzonen), Kunstsammlung im Ständehaus, Dusseldorf

2011, The Global Contemporary, Kunstwelten nach 1989, ZKM Karlsruhe

2011, Les Marques Aveugles, Centre d ́Art Contemporain Geneva

2011, ONE WORLD BERLIN Filmfestival für Menschenrechte und Medien, Arsenal Berlin, Berlin

2011, Schöne Aussichten. Wiedereröffnung der Neuen Galerie, Neue Galerie Kassel, Kassel

2011, SERIOUS GAMES – Krieg – Medien – Kunst, Mathildenhöhe, Darmstadt

2011, Signal + Noise, Media Art Festival, Vivo Arts Centre, Vancouver HORS PISTES, Vancouver

2012, 1st Tbilisi Triennial ‘Offside Effect’, Centre of Contemporary Art, Tbilisi

2012, Alternativa 2012, Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk

2012, Copenhagen Art Festival, Overgaden, Copenhagen

2012, In Free Fall, Screen Festival, Museu d’Art Contemporani Barcelona, Barcelona

2012, Mengele’s Skull, Portikus, Frankfurt

2012, Revolution Happened Because Everybody Refused to Go Home, Disobedience Archive, Bureau Publik Copenhagen, Copenhagen

2012, Television, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

2013, 59th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Oberhausen

2013, Bergen Triennial, Bergen

2013, Economy, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow

2013, The ICP Triennial, New York

2013, Image Employment, MoMA PS1, Long Island City

2013, Nine Artists, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis

2013, No One Lives Here, Royal College of Art, London

2013, Schichtwechsel, Nordstern Videokunstzentrum, Gelsenkirchen

2013, The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archeology, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago

2013, Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions, Tokyo Metropolitan, Tokyo

2014, Adorno’s Grey, 52nd New York Film Festival, New York

2014, Cut to Swipe, Museum of Modern Art, New York

2014, Fotofest, Houston

2014, Insert 2014, New Delhi

2014, International Film Festival, Rotterdam

2014, McLaren 2014 Animation in Context, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow

2014, Time Pieces, Nordstern Videokunstzentrum, Gelsenkirchen

2015, 4th Dojima River Biennale, Osaka

2015, 56th Venice Biennale, German Pavilion, Venice

2015, AIMIA Photography Prize Exhibition, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

2015, Collection on Display: Experimental Arrangements, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich

2015, Digital Mind, Hannover Kunstverein, Hannover

2015, Filter Bubble (curated by 89PLUS Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets), LUMA Westbau, Zurich

2015, Necessary Force: Art in a Police State, Art Museum of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

2015, Under the Clouds: From Paranoia to the Digital Sublime, Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto

2016, Berlin Biennale, Berlin

2016, Dancing with Myself, Self-portrait and Self-invention, Works from the Pinault Collection, Museum Folkwang, Essen

2016, Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 (curated by Chrissie Iles), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

2016, Electronic Superhighway, Whitechapel Gallery, London

2016, Invisible Adversaries: Marieluise Hessel Collection, CCS Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson

2016, MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver

2016, The New Human, Moderna Museet, Stockholm

2016, São Paulo Biennial, Sao Paulo

2016, Tate Modern Collection Display, Tate Modern, London

2016, Territories and Fictions: Thinking a New Way of the World, The Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid

2016, To See Without Being Seen: Contemporary Art and Drone Warfare, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis

2016, V-A-C Foundation in collaboration with The State Museum of Gulag History, Moscow

2016, Wer nicht denken will, fliegt raus, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Kleve

2017, 32nd Bienal de São Paulo, Sao Paulo (travelled to Fundação de Serralves, Porto)

2017, ARS17, Kiasma – The Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki

2017, The Absent Museum, WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels

2017, The Truth of Uncertainty: Moving Image Works from the Hall Collection (curated by Chrissie Iles), Hall Art Foundation, Schloss Derneburg Museum, Derneburg

Solo Exhibitions

2004, Berlin Biennial, Berlin

2006, Signal Gallery, Malmo

2007, 300m3 Gallery, Gothenburg

2008, Kunsthalle Winterthur, Winterthur

2008, Moderna Museet, Stockholm

2009, Neuer Beliner Kunstverein, Berlin

2009, P74 Gallery, Ljubljana

2010, Chisenhale Gallery, London

2010, Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju

2010, Henie Onstad Art Centre, Oslo

2010, Taipeh Biennial 2010, Taipei

2010, Villa Stuck, Munich

2011, Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam

2012, Adorno’s Grey, Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam

2012, Focus: Hito Steyerl, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

2012, Hito Steyerl, e-flux, New York

2012, The Kiss, Overgaden Institute of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen

2013, Il Palazzo Enciclopedico, Venice Biennial, Venice

2013, In Free Fall, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York

2013, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego

2014, 35 Ways to Break through a Wall, Künstlerhaus, Stuttgart

2014, Circulacionismo, Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City

2014, Hito Steyerl, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

2014, Hito Steyerl, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven

2014, How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational Installation, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York

2014, Junktime, Home Workspace Program, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut

2015, Concentrations 59: Mirror Stage – Visualizing the Self After the Internet, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas

2015, Duty-Free Art, ARTSPACE, Auckland

2015, Duty-Free Art, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid

2015, KOW Gallery, Berlin

2015, Liquidity, Inc., Tensta Konsthall, Spanga

2015, Too Much World, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane

2016, Hito Steyerl: Factory of the Sun, Hartware MedienKunstVerein, Dortmund (travelled to Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen)

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Amsterdam (Stedelijk Mus.)

Annandale-on-Hudson (Marieluise Hessel Collection, CCS Hessel MA, Bard College)

Boston (ICA)

Chicago (MCA)

Dallas (MA)

Eindhoven (Van Abbemuseum)

London (Contemporary Art Society)

London (Tate Modern)

Los Angeles (Hammer Mus.)

Madrid (Reina Sofia Mus.)

Magdeburg (Kunstmuseum Kloster unser Lieben Frauen)

Minneapolis (Walker Art Center)

Montreal (MAC de Montreal)

New York (MoMA)

New York (Solomon R. Guggenheim Mus.)

San Jose (MA)

St Louis (Mildred Kemper AM)

Washington DC (Hirshhorn Mus. and Sculpture Garden)