Enter the connected world of Hito Steyerl where fact, fiction, real and virtual collide

Acclaimed German artist and filmmaker explores how technology distorts what we know to be real; first major solo exhibition in Canada opens at the AGO on Oct. 24

TORONTO —A global influencer, leading German artist, filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl returns to the AGO next fall for her first major Canadian solo exhibition. Exploring technology’s capacity to distort how we see the world, Steyerl’s boundary-pushing films and lectures reveal the complexities and absurdities undermining the idea of a connected world. Blending the personal with the political and irony with seriousness, the exhibition Hito Steyerl features a selection of ten iconic works from the past 15 years, ranging in focus from video games to artificial intelligence and tax havens for the rich.

Truth will rarely be popular or profitable,” Steyerl wrote in the New York Times in 2018. “Before, technology was supposed to connect and mediate. The online world seemed like a Disney vision of multiculturalism, promoting sterile tolerance from above. Now technology divides and fragments; it identifies and ranks people.”

A filmmaker trained in Germany and Japan, Steyerl was born in Germany in 1966, and currently lives and works in Berlin. A finalist for the 2015 AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize, Steyerl is known to some AGO audiences but this marks her first major solo exhibition in Canada. Ranging in scale from room-sized architectural environments to single screen videos, Steyerl’s works often begin with a specific focus such as a person, photo or location, only to zoom outward and eventually reveal them as a small element of a much larger issue.

The latest in a series of ambitious solo exhibitions to fill level 5 of the AGO’s Vivian and David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art, Hito Steyerl opens on Oct. 24, 2019 and is curated by Adelina Vlas, the AGO’s Associate Curator of Contemporary Art. 

For over 15 years, Hito Steyerl has been at the forefront of a conversation about the creation and circulation of images that the rest of us are only catching up with now,” says Adelina Vlas. “Her works, in all their complexity, exist as microcosms of the larger issues of our time. Visitors can expect to be led on a series of often-hallucinatory, always illuminating, investigative journeys into the truth about technology and our everyday lives.”

The exhibition highlights two recent large-scale artworks, Hell Yeah We Fuck Die (2016) and Liquidity Inc. (2014), each of which combines video with built environments.

Staged like a parkour training structure, with metal bars and light box seating, Hell Yeah We Fuck Die (2016) features a pair of videos that reveal very different moments in the development of artificial intelligence. A parable both playful and poignant, Liquidity Inc. (2014) tells the story of Jacob Wood, an American economic analyst turned mixed martial artist.

Steyerl’s extensive research is evidenced most directly in her lectures, which can be seen in video form in the exhibition. In Duty Free Art (2015), she investigates the shadowy world of Free Ports, tax havens for luxury goods and contemporary art. In Free Plots (2019), Steyerl gives physical shape to these tax havens by creating planters in the shapes of some of the world’s most infamous tax havens – Geneva and Panama. Working with a Toronto community garden, the artist will bring the planters to life inside the exhibition.

A 144 page hardcover catalogue, featuring essays by Wendy Chun, Brian Droitcour and Adelina Vlas accompanies the exhibition. Co-published by DelMonico and the AGO, the catalogue will be available in shopAGO in late October.

Hito Steyerl (b. 1966, Munich, Germany) is an internationally acclaimed German artist, prolific writer and cultural critic. She is currently a professor of Art and Multimedia at the University of the Arts, Berlin and holds a PhD in Philosophy from the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. Steyerl has had solo exhibitions at Serpentine Gallery, London UK (2019); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2016); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain; Artists Space, New York; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia (2015); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands; ICA, London, UK; Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Germany (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2013); the Art Institute of Chicago, and E-flux, New York (2012). Group exhibitions include Sculpture Projects Münster,  Münster, Germany (2017); the 32nd São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo, Brazil (2016);  the German Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy; the Hannover Kunstverein, Hannover, Germany; CAC Vilnius, Vilnius, Lithuania (2015); Cut to Swipe, Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Darknet, Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Switzerland; Bienal de la Imagen en Movimiento, Goethe-Institut Buenos Aires, Argentina (2014); The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology, MCA Chicago; Nine Artists, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Bergen Triennial, Bergen, Norway, and the 55th Venice Biennale (2013). Upcoming exhibition include the solo presentation Drill at Park Avenue Armory and the international group exhibition May You Live in Interesting Times at the 58th Venice Biennial, both in 2019. Hito Steyerl lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Hito Steyerl is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario

Lead Support                      Women’s Art Initiative       

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

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The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s public arts funder, with a mandate to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts. The Council champions and invests in artistic excellence through a broad range of grants, services, prizes and payments to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations. Its work ensures that excellent, vibrant and diverse art and literature engages Canadians, enriches their communities and reaches markets around the world. The Council also raises public awareness and appreciation of the arts through its communications, research and arts promotion activities. It is responsible for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, which promotes the values and programs of UNESCO in Canada to contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future. The Canada Council Art Bank operates art rental programs and helps further public engagement with contemporary arts.

Located in Toronto, Canada’s largest city of 5.9 million, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the largest art museums in North America. The AGO Collection of close to 95,000 works ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art to significant works by Indigenous and Canadian artists and European masterpieces. The AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, taking special care to showcase diverse and underrepresented artists. Its 585,000 square foot building was most recently expanded in 2008 by Frank Gehry, and attracts approximately one million visits per year. A new pricing model, launching May 25, 2019, offers all visitors 25 and under free, unlimited admission; a $35 Annual Pass includes entry for an entire year. Visit AGO.ca to learn more.

The AGO is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO Members, donors and private-sector partners.


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