Hito Steyerl’s installation explores today’s ‘world made of pictures’, and how and why we might hide within it. How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File takes the form of an instructional video. It apparently borrows elements of its public-service-announcement-like authoritative voice from the comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The video shifts freely between ‘real world’ footage and digital recreations, and this visually disorientating mix contrasted with the robotic and insipid voice delivering advice for “how to become invisible”.
Some of the shots within the footage involved a virtual reality tour of desert gated community sites covered in photo calibration targets, huge black and white patterns used for calibrating satellite images and aeroplane surveillance cameras which have now become obsolete since the arrival of digital photography and drones. I had no idea these huge expanses of concrete in the desert existed for this purpose, and the video of these eery and abandoned spaces was fascinating.
My favourite extract from the video was a digital piece featuring a scene in everyday life, suggesting ways you can automatically “become invisible”, and highlighting the cultural invisibility of women, through satirical suggestions such as “being a woman and over 50”, and “being a superhero.” Her work balances judgement and wit, demonstrating how ‘not being seen’ can have oppressive and liberating qualities.
Whilst I can only find short clips online, I really do recommend going and seeing this for yourself! I could have sat and watched this five times through had it not been for the museum closing time, and my descriptions cannot do it justice, as it was a really moving and thought provoking piece of film.
Steyerl’s work can be seen at the Tate Modern within the free Media Networks exhibition on Level 4