Where Liquidity, Inc. used water as a metaphor to riff on everything from the banking system to environmental crisis, Steyerl has for this project taken inspiration from a quote in Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto: “Our best machines are made of sunshine; they are all light and clean because they are nothing but signals.” Counting among its characters a computer programmer and a self-made YouTube star, the work can be expected to exhibit the artist’s familiar DIY charm. It’s a style consistent with an era in which, she says, “almost everyone has access to the tools to shape images to their own desire,” and in which more people are using picture- and video-editing software to create and disseminate images than paint or paper.
Steyerl plans to use the EYE Prize to realize a new film after Venice, its £25,000 a substantial fillip for an artist whose resolutely uncommercial practice has “always depended on the salary I receive as a teacher.” Her essays are foundational texts for the emerging generation of so-called post-internet artists. Yet she is eager to stress that her art does more than merely illustrate the ideas she expresses in her writing. “The writer is a plumber, the artist is a baker,” she tells me. “The writer is trying to put things together, mechanically, to find connections.” And the artist, I ask? “The artist … inflates things!” Steyerl laughs delightedly at the suggestion, and concedes that she might need to refine the analogy. The “unexpected,” she elaborates, is to be cherished in a work of art, if not in one’s plumbing.