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  • Writer's pictureJuhani Silvola

Hito Steyerl: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War

Hito Steyerls work has inspired and intrigued me for a long time. I started to read her work in e-flux journals, and began watching all the videos of her talks and interviews I could find. Her book Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War (Verso 2017) presents a wide array of texts, covering topics like war, global politics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, the art world, information, economy, the internet (spam, scams & bots) etc etc.

Her perspectives are always interesting, highly idiosyncratic, and incisive. I find that I either discover entirely new topics, or see familiar topics from new angles. Thus, even older writings about topics such as the internet or AI, where the field is evolving at a breakneck speed and texts quickly become outdated, are still highly worth reading.

I'd say this book is essential reading for citizens in today's world and I highly recommend you to check out her work, both through this book and lecture-videos, and also her own artworks wherever you might come across them. I just started re-reading this book and will be highlighting more of its essays in the future. Here are excerpts from a text called How to Kill People: A Problem of Design:

"I saw the future. It was empty. A clean slate, flat, designed through and through. In his 1963 film How to Kill People designer George Nelson argues that killing is a matter of design, next to fashion and homemaking. Nelson states that design is crucial in improving both the form and function of weapons. It deploys aesthetics to improve lethal technology"

"In modernist science fiction, the worst kinds of governments used to be imagined as a single artificial intelligence remote-controlling society. Today’s real existing proto- and para-fascisms, however, rely on decentralized artificial stupidity"

""Creative disruption" is not just realised by the wrecking of buildings and urban areas. It refers to the wrecking of a horizon of common understanding, replacing it by narrow, parallel, top-down, trimmed and bleached artificial histories»

"What to do about this? What is the opposite design, a type of creation that assists pluriform, horizontal forms of life, and that can be comprehended as part of a shared humanity? What is the contrary to a procedure that inflates, accelerates, purges, disrupts, and homogenizes; a process that designs humanity as a uniform, cleansed, and allegedly superior product, a superhumanity comprised of sanitized render ghosts?"

"The contrary is a process that doesn’t grow via destruction, but very literally de-grows constructively. This type of construction is not creating inflation, but devolution. Not centralized competition but cooperative autonomy…Not superhumanity; humanity as such would perfectly do."

Also, check out this talk about virtual reality called Bubble Vision (the actual talk starts at 06:50 after an introduction). Hope you enjoy it!

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