'Hito Steyerl: Power Plants' Review - The Serpentine Gallery

11th April - 6th May 2019

Serpentine Sackler Gallery

FREE entry

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Who is Hito Steyerl, the German digital artist working on obscure themes such as surveillance and unequal wealth distribution? What reality does she depict in her new project presented at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery? Opening on the 11th April, the show gives us a glimpse of the world as she sees it thanks to Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence technologies. As a digital visual artist and engaged filmmaker, Hito Steyerl considers important topics such as power and inequality in society under the prism of new technologies and digital mediums. More importantly, she took the opportunity to address a serious issue, what she calls an 'elephant in the room': the association of the Serpentine Gallery with the Sackler family, who are complicit in the Opioids crisis taking place in the US.

'Technology has this in common with magic, both usually don’t work'

Visiting Hito Steyerl’s show at the Serpentine Gallery is like walking in a field of digital flowers, a temple of ancient yet electronic symbols, an archaeological site of the future. Equipped with our smartphone as a tool of extraction of meaning throughout the exhibition, visitors can download an augmented reality app to expand their vision of Hito Steyerl’s artworks which are presented in two projects.

Images provided by Camille Chu

The first project Power Plants is installed inside the gallery space and features a new video installation co-commissioned by The Store X (you might have passed in front of the London-based concept store located right next to King’s College Stand campus). This part of the show presents videos of plants and flowers generated by an Artificial Intelligence which calculates and predicts the future: what you see on the screen are 0.04 seconds in the future. Hito Steyerl has created what she describes as a 'documentary image of the future', which allows us to literally see ahead of time.

Thanks to our smartphones, and the Power Plants augmented reality app, we can also find the location of fifteen animated sigils dispatched in the gallery, point our phones towards these enigmatic symbols and activate a whole new reality. Through our screen we see words flourishing all over the exhibition space, floating in the air. We can read botanical descriptions of future plants and fictitious quotes dated in the future. The quotes may be serious, like those of Ricarda Deakin, an English doctor of the future that has written (or will be writing) a book in 2045, Flora of the Future Garden. Other quotes are much more humorous and embrace self-criticism: 'This game is total crap. You can’t shoot anything at all and there’s just a bunch of weirdo AI salads wobbling around (…) I give it a zero star review. Serious shite, man', from an anonymous Yelp review of Steyerl’s own exhibition dated Summer 2019. Between austerity and humour, Steyerl reminds us that the use of technology might not be entirely glorified. It could instead impact our natural environment in many ways. The artist wants us to step into a ruderal garden, an ensemble of plants that grow out of waste grounds in the wake of human disruption or destruction.[if gte vml 1]><o:wrapblock><v:shape id="officeArt_x0020_object" o:spid="_x0000_s1027" type="#_x0000_t75" style='position:absolute; left:0;text-align:left;margin-left:34.8pt;margin-top:16.6pt;width:189.2pt; height:337pt;z-index:251659264;visibility:visible;mso-wrap-style:square; mso-wrap-distance-left:12pt;mso-wrap-distance-top:12pt; mso-wrap-distance-right:12pt;mso-wrap-distance-bottom:12pt; mso-position-horizontal:absolute;mso-position-horizontal-relative:margin; mso-position-vertical:absolute;mso-position-vertical-relative:line' strokeweight="1pt"> <v:stroke miterlimit="4"></v:stroke> <v:imagedata src="file:////Users/godelievedebree/Library/Group%20Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/msoclip1/01/clip_image003.jpg" o:title=""></v:imagedata> <w:wrap type="topAndBottom" anchorx="margin" anchory="line"></w:wrap> </v:shape><v:shape id="_x0000_s1028" type="#_x0000_t75" style='position:absolute; left:0;text-align:left;margin-left:240.45pt;margin-top:12.9pt;width:191.3pt; height:340.7pt;z-index:251660288;visibility:visible;mso-wrap-style:square; mso-wrap-distance-left:12pt;mso-wrap-distance-top:12pt; mso-wrap-distance-right:12pt;mso-wrap-distance-bottom:12pt; mso-position-horizontal:absolute;mso-position-horizontal-relative:margin; mso-position-vertical:absolute;mso-position-vertical-relative:line' strokeweight="1pt"> <v:stroke miterlimit="4"></v:stroke> <v:imagedata src="file:////Users/godelievedebree/Library/Group%20Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/msoclip1/01/clip_image004.jpg" o:title=""></v:imagedata> <w:wrap type="topAndBottom" anchorx="margin" anchory="line"></w:wrap> </v:shape><![endif][if !vml]

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