Hito Steyerl – Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War


Verso, ISBN-13: 978-1786632432, English, 256 pages, 2017, UK

Steyerl is equally an acknowledged artist and a skilled writer, which is quite a rare combination of qualities, especially if accompanied by a lucid and forthright attitude to discussing powers, society and art incongruousness. In this book her eloquence just confirms and elevates these skills even more. It is a collection of essays which were originally written as lectures and performances. First, there’s a specific skill in crafting titles as if they were artworks, like “How to Kill People: A Problem of Design” or “Sea of Data: Apophenia and Pattern (Mis)Recognition”. But they’re not as vainly attractive as clickbait, rather the opposite. They conceptually shine in the eye of the reader like warnings in a fast and endless movie. Steyerl’s prose is intese, and she nimbly connects her arguments with theory, other artists’ works, facts and rumours, like an excellently curated, “timeline” sequence. Altogether it forms a “post-contemporary” view on the always-on world, where technologies affecting our senses, and pushes it towards even more extreme or dysfunctional levels. Hence her concept of “circulationism” (a sort of accelerationism with images as the main commodity), is reflecting her critique of the artworld, which is always present, as an abstract voice. Particularly she narrates the technological and financial underpinning structure of this system, including the circus of fairs, museums and very controversial freeports. A surely stimulating text, informed and challenging, which catches and serve contemporaneity at will.

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