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Hito Steyerl

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Name: Hito

Surname: Steyerl

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Table of Contents

As an avid follower of contemporary art, you have undoubtedly come across the works of Hito Steyerl. Over the past decade, Steyerl has become one of the most prominent figures in modern art. Though her artistic practice is wide-ranging, incorporating film, video, writing, and lecture, she is best known for her moving image installations incorporating essays and documentaries. Her works offer incisive and often unsettling critiques of topics ranging from digitalization to militarization to global capitalism.

Steyerl's meteoric rise in the contemporary art world reflects her ability to capture the zeitgeist. Her works feel urgent, speaking to the anxieties and issues that define the 21st century. Though her pieces can be theoretically dense, drawing on critical theory and philosophy, they remain highly engaging and accessible. It is a testament to Steyerl's gift for blending conceptual rigour with populist appeal.

Steyerl continues to push the boundaries of modern art and inspire new generations of artists and thinkers. Her remarkable story serves as an inspiration and reminder of the power of one voice to shape culture and move society forward. Though the future remains unwritten, one can expect Hito Steyerl to continue to be a dominant force in the art world for years.

This article provides an overview of Steyerl's life, from her beginnings as a filmmaker in 1990s Berlin through her emergence as a contemporary art star. It traces her evolution as an artist, explores her diverse and interdisciplinary practice, discusses recurrent themes in her work, and examines her far-reaching influence and impact. This profile illuminates what makes Steyerl such a compelling and consequential figure.

Hito Steyerl BIOGRAPHY

Hito Steyerli
Image Credit: E- Flux

Early Life and Education: The Formative Years of Hito Steyerl

Hito was born in 1966 in Munich, Germany. Her formative years were spent in Germany and Japan, where she lived until she was 30.

Early Education

Steyerl earned degrees in both philosophy and film from the University of Tokyo and the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. Her studies focused on post-colonial theory, postmodernism, and feminist film theory, influences shaping her interdisciplinary artistic practice.

Work-Life in the 1990s

In the 1990s, Steyerl worked as a film critic, writing for German newspapers like Die Tageszeitung and Freitag. During this time, she also made a series of feminist documentaries on immigration and globalization. Her films adopted an experimental, collage-like style, incorporating found footage and pop cultural references.

Teaching Philosophy

Since the early 2000s, Steyerl has taught film and fine art at European universities, including the University of Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany and Goldsmiths, University of London. Her teaching philosophy emphasizes art's political and social role, focusing on issues like capitalism, technology, and violence in visual culture. She encourages students to take interdisciplinary approaches in their work and to engage critically with contemporary society.

Through her formative education and early work experience as a filmmaker and critic, Steyerl developed a keen interest in politics, philosophy, and theories of representation that fuel her influential work as an artist and educator today. Her diverse background and critical thinking skills allowed her to pioneer an artistic style focused on the intersection of images, power, and truth in the digital age.

What is Hito Steyerl known for?

Hito Steyerli
Image Credit: E- Flux

Hito Steyerl has had an incredible journey from a young film student to a leading figure in contemporary art. Her thought-provoking films, writings and installations have brought her international acclaim but, more importantly, challenged audiences worldwide to question the status quo and think critically about the world around them. While her work is complex and multifaceted, at its core, it is a mission to provoke discussion around societal issues in an age of globalization, technology and conflict.

Career highlights

Image Credit: MoMA

Artistic Development: Steyerl's Evolution as an Artist and Filmmaker

If you examine Hito Steyerl's creative evolution, her work has progressed slowly. Early in her career, Steyerl focused primarily on filmmaking. Her first films in the late 1990s and early 2000s explored issues of globalization, capitalism, and power structures.

Steyerl's evolution as an artist mirrors her increasing prominence and success. While her early films showed promise, her later, more experimental work propelled her to the highest echelons of the contemporary art world. Steyerl's trailblazing and unflinching practice ensured her status as an icon for years.

Critical Acclaim and Recognition: Steyerl's Rise to Prominence in the Art World

By the mid-2010s, Steyerl had garnered significant critical acclaim and recognition in the contemporary art world. Her works were showcased in major museums and galleries across the globe, cementing her status as an influential figure in modern art.


56th Venice Biennale

Steyerl's work was included in one of the most prestigious contemporary art exhibitions. Her film Factory of the Sun was praised for its commentary on the relationship between digital technology, surveillance, and capitalism.


US at MoMA PS1

Steyerl had her first major solo museum exhibition in a leading contemporary art institution in New York City. The show featured many of her well-known video installations and further raised her profile in the American art scene.


In 2017, Steyerl was awarded the inaugural EYE Prize for outstanding achievement in film and video from the Dutch EYE Filmmuseum. The jury praised her as an artist who "ingeniously shows us what visual culture can be."

What is Animal Spirits by Hito Steyerl?

"Animal Spirits" is a video installation created by Hito Steyerl. The piece explores the complex relationship between humans and animals, specifically in the context of economic systems and capitalism. Steyerl uses a combination of found footage, animation, and digital effects to create a multi-layered and thought-provoking experience for viewers.

The title "Animal Spirits" is derived from the term coined by economist John Maynard Keynes, who used it to describe the psychological and emotional factors that influence economic decision-making. In Steyerl's work, these "animal spirits" are represented through animal imagery and symbolism.

The installation consists of multiple screens displaying different scenes and narratives, creating a fragmented and non-linear narrative structure. Steyerl challenges traditional storytelling conventions through this approach and invites viewers to engage with the piece actively.

Hito Steyerl List of Work

Hito Steyerli
Image Credit: Core Magazines

Documentary Style

Steyerl adopted a documentary style, incorporating footage of protests and interviewing intellectuals. While fascinating, these films appealed mainly to academic and avant-garde audiences.



These films exemplified this documentary approach.


Lovely Andrea


Increasing Abstraction

In the 2010s, Steyerl's films became increasingly abstract, experimental, and theoretical. She began incorporating 3D animation, video game esthetics, and immersive environments. These later films earned Steyerl international acclaim, cementing her status as a pioneer of contemporary video art.



These films demonstrated this new direction.


Factory of the Sun


Hell Yeah, We Fuck Die


The Contemporary Art Scene

Within the contemporary art scene, Steyerl is renowned for her innovative and thought-provoking video installations. Her work incisively examines issues around technology, surveillance, globalization, and violence in the digital age. Steyerl is a seminal figure who has influenced countless new media artists and continues to push the boundaries of conceptual film and video art.

Through her acclaimed and thought-provoking works, Steyerl has become an authoritative voice and a pioneer for video art and new media in the 21st century. Her rise to prominence demonstrates the increasing influence of female artists and digital culture on the contemporary art landscape. Steyerl's impact and recognition in the international art world signal the arrival of a new generation of artists born in the post-digital age.

Where does Hito Steyerl Live?

Hito Steyerl lives in Berlin, Germany. However, as an internationally renowned artist, she travels extensively for exhibitions, screenings, and lectures. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide, and has participated in numerous international art events. 

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