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Be water, my friend

In Liquidity Inc., Hito Steyerl shares priceless yet practical lessons from nature’s oldest teacher: water.

Liquidity Inc

Hito Steyerl, Liquidity Inc., 2014. Installation view from Hito Steyerl: This is the future at the Art Gallery of Ontario. © Hito Steyerl, Photo: AGO

Comprising 70 per cent of the planet and 60 per cent of the human body; water holds the most space in our physical environment. Apart from giving and sustaining life, it offers great philosophical value to those who closely observe its properties. In Hito Steyerl’s work Liquidity Inc. (2014)one of the architectural environments featured in Hito Steyerl: This is the future – H2O’s fluid motion is the perfect metaphor for adaptability in a changing world.

Liquidity Inc. is presented on Level 5 in the AGO’s Vivian & David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art, and consists of a large-scale video projection facing a ramp covered in royal blue judo mats and bean bags that creates a curved surface ideal for seated viewing.

A 30-minute video essay loops on the screen, featuring the story of Jacob Wood, a former Lehman Brothers analyst born in Vietnam. Wood became an MMA announcer after losing his job in the 2008 financial crisis, turning his favourite hobby into a career. His intriguing journey unfolds in narrative segments that are juxtaposed and overlaid with other captivating elements, such as a number of network-news-like weather updates about the current political “climate” given by a man wearing a balaclava. Viewers will also see sporadically reoccurring imagery of tsunamis and tidal waves, a reminder of the destructive force of water.        

These striking visuals are set to an audio backdrop that quotes the meditative principles of a character played by the famed martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, including the precept that drives Liquidity Inc., “Be water, my friend.” Lee’s philosophies are accompanied by a musical mash-up of electronic grooves, rock and other calming ambient noises meant to mimic the swaying effect of fluidity.        

So what does it all mean? In Liquidity Inc. Steyerl uses water as a powerful metaphor, exploring various entities that require fluid movement. Whether in a literal sense, like martial arts techniques and waves, or more figurative like finance and politics, fluid adaptability is required to stay afloat in a rapidly changing world. This concept is embodied by Jacob Wood and his story of survival and adaptability in the face of adversity and change.  

To top it all off, even the viewer’s body is absorbed into the water metaphor as you merge into Liquidity Inc.’s constructed flow of large, comfortable judo mats. And if you can stay afloat, maybe you’ll leave with new insight on how to be more water-like in your own life.       

Experience Liquidity Inc. as part of Hito Steyerl’s debut Canadian solo exhibition, This is the future, on view until February 23 on Level 5.

Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO Members, AGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under. For more information, please visit the website.

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