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Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg
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9000 Aalborg

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Hito Steyerl

SocialSim, 2020

Single channel HD video and computer simulations Dancing Mania
Kunsten, Aalborg museum of modern art


About the work

Hito Steyerl has created a complex and seductive video installation that resembles a mix of an interactive video game and a club scene. Uniformed avatars twist around as if controlled by an invisible force. The complexity is present on several levels, visually and in terms of content. The work explores the social imbalance in the world, created as a reaction to the amount of information we live and work with - from social media, digital networks, news and more. The demand for information is shown in the work in the form of a manic dance. A dance caused by a social, political and health crisis that has changed the way we work and live. The work recreates the mass psychosis from the Middle Ages known as St. Johns or Skt. Vitus ’dance, where people danced themselves to death. The dance in which we are involved here is created on the basis of information and statistical data, including the number of pandemic deniers, autonomous police patrols, demonstrations, conspiracy theories and more. All parameters that affect, regulate and disrupt society and human behavior.


In the inner space of the video installation, a film with a clear narrative is shown. The aesthetics borrow from equal parts computer games, a TV series, a documentary and a simulation program. The plot is based on the mystery of the missing work of art "Salvador Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci, which made headlines as the world's most expensive painting auctioned in 2017. The search for the painting leads the police into an art museum, where the works of art have taken over and left employees without work. The works have taken control of their own destiny, as humans are subject to both a runaway market logic, a global pandemic, and riots in the streets. The fate of man is now in the hands of an algorithm in an endless crisis.


Man has suffered a total loss of control. With both humor and critical depth, Steyerl portrays society on the brink of chaos and social imbalance. The savior of the new world is a "deux ex machina" (god is the machine), an artificial intelligence.




At Hito Steyerl, we are presented with a dystopia in which technology has taken over and man no longer has control over the machines. She depicts a time when art is more a matter of price, where the art world goes digital, where police and protesters meet in violent clashes, and where a deadly virus is upon us. People, societies, our working lives and even museums are all subject to the same technological, economic and political structures and are part of the new digital social reality.