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Live Coverage: Hito Steyerl and e-flux Book Launch at the Guggenheim


Join Erica Love and João Enxuto [@EnxutoLove] on this thread, starting at 6:30pm NY time today, for live responses to the double book launch of Hito Steyerl’s Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War and e-flux’s Supercommunity: Diabolical Togetherness Beyond Contemporary Art, held at the Guggenheim.

Double US Book Launch: Duty Free Art and Supercommunity at the Guggenheim

Wednesday, January 24, 6:30–8:30pm
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Ave
New York, NY 10128

FREE with RSVP,,

The event will be streamed live on

In collaboration with e-flux and Verso Books, the Guggenheim presents the US launch of two recent Verso publications: Hito Steyerl’s Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War, a new volume of essays by the writer, filmmaker, and artist; and Supercommunity: Diabolical Togetherness Beyond Contemporary Art, a collection of essays, poems, short stories, and plays by artists and theorists selected from the eponymous 88-text issue of e-flux journal commissioned for the 56th Venice Biennale. The evening will feature Steyerl in conversation with media theorist Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, a presentation by artist and Supercommunity contributing author Liam Gillick, and a one-act play by co-editors Julieta Aranda and Brian Kuan Wood.

In Duty Free Art (November 2017), Berlin-based filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl wonders how we can appreciate, or even make, art in the present age. What can we do when arms manufacturers sponsor museums and some of the world’s most valuable artworks are used as a fictional currency in a global futures market that has nothing to do with the works themselves? Can we distinguish between creativity and the digital white noise that bombards our everyday lives? Exploring artifacts as diverse as video games, WikiLeaks files, the proliferation of spam, and political actions, she exposes the paradoxes within globalization, political economies, visual culture, and the status of art production. Keller Easterling says of Duty-Free Art: “Hito Steyerl’s nuanced essays dissect the buckshot of digital information streams. And as her own art work engages all those digital filters and proxies that scramble and reassemble and generate noise, she also rehearses another way of thinking or recognizing or laughing.” The New York Times writes of Duty Free Art: “Steyerl refuses to nail down a single idea, or insist on a point of view. Instead, we get art as an act of moral thinking-in-progress. In a very of-the-moment, digital-age way, the logic of that thinking is fractured, the nature of morality suspect. But a belief in the necessity of thinking, restlessly, politically, never is in doubt.”

Over a four-month span, e-flux journal’s editors published Supercommunity, an ongoing issue presented daily both online and on site from from the 56th Venice Biennale. The essays, poems, short stories, and plays selected for the new book Supercommunity: Diabolical Togetherness Beyond Contemporary Art (December 2017) form a cohesive collection tracing the negative collective that is the subject of contemporary life, in which art, the internet, and globalization have shed their utopian guises but persist as naked power, in the face of apocalyptic ecological disaster and against the claims of the social commons. Edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle, the new anthology of these writings features an introduction by Antonio Negri and guest-edited sections by Raqs Media Collective, Tom Holert, Natasha Ginwala, Boris Groys, and Pedro Neves Marques. In his introduction, Antonio Negri explains, “Supercommunity traverses every experience, every struggle. It gives voice to art as it does to social critique, to the critique of science in the same way as the syndicalism of the old and new labor-power, to the struggle of artists as precarious workers and the precarious workers as artists.”

Both titles are published by Verso Books and will be available at the event.


Hello! We are excited to be here at the Peter B. Lewis Theater at the Guggenheim Museum reporting on the dual book launch of Supercommunity: Diabolical Togetherness Beyond Contemporary Art and Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War, a new volume of essays by the writer, filmmaker, and artist Hito Steyerl.


The first part of this dual book launch will be for Supercommunity: Diabolical Togetherness Beyond Contemporary Art, this conversation will be followed by a presentation by artist and Supercommunity contributing author Liam Gillick, and a one-act play by co-editors Julieta Aranda and Brian Kuan Wood.


Kaye Cain-Nielson takes the stage to introduce Supercommunity, wondering how the ideas conceived in the volume in 2015 could end up being so needed and so relevant now in 2018.

“I am Supercommunity and you are only starting to recognize me …”


From this volume’s introduction by Antonio Negri he asserts that Supercommunity is a constructive means to engage with “the anguish of this corrupt world, together with a powerful trust in technical means to break with this anguish.” Going further, Negri measures his vision of the future against the accelerationist model advocated by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek in #ACCELERATE: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics . It comes down to differing commitments for the multitude:

However a difference is visible here: whereas the “Manifesto” acts, as it were, at the level of the multitude, from a standpoint of large-scale “industry,” Supercommunity seeks, rather, singularities and subjectivations. Here a gesture of revolt is repeated, but it acts, as it were, in an artisanal way, minimally, and yet no less effectively: labor is art; art becomes labor, craft, pursuit of the wage, precarious entrepreneurship …

Negri shifts the scale of the Supercommunity of commitments to subjectivities which Srnicek and Williams would likely describe as localized “folk politics.” But this is precisely the milieu where Negri locates the “taste for life” that drives political action. He appeals for “reason as myth and myth as reason.” This amounts to a new spirituality that is not “new age,” that “does not play with transcendent ghosts or cheap irrationalism.” This is a mythology of sensible reason.


Special thanks to Mariana Silva, Verso, and many others who helped make this possible but above all, thank you to all of those who have made this Supercommunity. This evening is dedicated to Ursula K. Le Guin.

“I think hard times are coming,” Ursula K. Le Guin said to the audience assembled in her honor at the 2014 National Book Awards, “when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”


Two texts from the book will come to life tonight first as Julieta Aranda and Brian Kuan Wood perform their one act play, Give Back to Your Alma Mater!

Kuan Wood is busy painting when a university financial officer (played by Aranda) from a major New York art institution, his alma mater, interrupts to remind him of debt owed.

Painting by Danilo Correale, Poetry and Wage Labor in History (from the series A Spectacular Miscalculation of Global Asymmetry), 2017.


The financial officer calls with a proposal to solve Kuan Wood’s debt problem by promising to handle him like a futures commodity: leveraging the dreams, reputation, lifestyle of the debtor/artist. This scheme is for establishing the neuro-management of artists. Imagine the Artists Pension Trust run as a partnership between an art school and computation. Aranda claims that this is the promise of something better than algorithmic management, “it is common sense.” She proclaims, “We need to make sure you are dreaming the right things.”


Liam Gillick takes the stage to read from his contribution to the volume “Weapons Grade Pig Work

“‘Don’t bother me while I’m actioning my deliverables.’ That’s what I told the guys the other day. Whoops and hollers all around. It’s full on here. Full action. Action items left right and center.“

The audience whoops.

Lucas Cranach’s illustration of grappling techniques from the military treatise The Art of Wrestling: Eighty-Five Devices (1539)


Liam Gillick sums up pig work: “Call it weapons grade. Now you’re talking. Come out to the sun, stop testiculating about your pig work and start working the problem.”


Session Two: Duty Free Art

Anton Vidokle gives a brief introduction to Hito Steyerl’s new book, Duty Free Art, published in November 2017. Steyerl is a longtime collaborator and the book launch also represents a compilation of other working affinities.


Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Hito Steyerl


Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. She is the author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (MIT, 2006), Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (MIT 2011), and Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT 2016).


Chun notices that in Duty Free Art there are phrases like, “We have a choice, we don’t have to accept the future that is given to us.” She notes that Steyerl is critical without being nostalgic and that nostalgia can become reactionary. Chun commends her formulation of history, that history should remain as history.

Soon after Steyerl recounts her visit to a Geneva freeport that lasted two minutes before she was kicked out. The freeport admins confirmed that the freeport was, in fact, the best museum in the world. Steyerl figured that we should take them for their world. No one knows for sure what these mystery freeports contain.


For Steyerl, the Amazon warehouse delimits chaotic storage and has a resemblance with the logic of the art freeport: storage that is only intelligible to robots. The museum is now a black-box that no longer represents a nation. It is art that has no public duty.


The topic of proxies is raised. These are stand-ins through which we act. Our bodies become proxies since there is a demand to be in several places at one time. “You need some kind of proxy to achieve this," Hito suggests. The cheapest way to still do this is by dragging around our fleshy bodies.

The question of the digital follows.

Chun reads from chapter one of Hito Steyerl’s Duty Free Art: “How can one think of art institutions in an age that is defined by planetary civil war, growing inequality, and proprietary digital technology? The boundaries of the institution have become fuzzy. They extend from pumping the audience for tweets, to a future of “neurocurating” in which paintings will surveil their audience via facial recognition and eye tracking to check whether the paintings are popular enough or whether anyone is behaving suspiciously. Is it possible, in this situation, to update the twentieth-century terminology of institutional critique?”



Steyerl wonders why cave paintings were so deep in the caves and concludes that it was because art is dangerous. She proposes that “we should use the museum as a temporary detainment.”


Chun and Steyerl address how the meaning of an image is radically changing. Its source material is similar to other forms of information: you often need a screen to access the image and it cannot be accessed in its raw state. On the other hand, photography, since its inception, was plagued by doubt about its objective reality. While this discussion is 150 years old the question of objectivity reemerges in a new form. Even though we cannot see it people believe in data. So now we have displaced this belief in black-boxed algorithms. “We just pushed this problem to the next level” contends Steyerl.


Cryptocurrency revelation by Steyerl: She is launching a new coin tomorrow. It is called “Cash Coin” it has no digital base whatsoever. It only exists in coins. “It is the safest blockchain technology ever because there is no blockchain ledger.”

Steyerl believes that if there is anything that should not be automated, it is social relations.