In The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich proposes spatial montage as a form that (re)emerged during the last three decades, along with a rise of spatiality as an important cultural paradigm, particularly in new media. Rather than construct a temporal montage that mimics the industrial logic of, for example, a Fordist assemblyline, we now easily combine disparate media elements within one screen. The tactic of spatial montage is one that Steyerl milks in the more recent work, particularly in Liquidity Inc. (2014), a story of Jacob Wood, an investment banker turned MMA fighter, and multiple forms of water. This piece appears on a screen suspended in the middle of a vast room bathed in blue light and viewers lounge on a curved structure with pillows. Language slippages flow freely: clouds / cloud computing; The Weather Underground as a TV weather report; “water can flow or it can crash” and [in finance] “ when you have liquidity you are in control.” References to finance and geopolitical events (America’s Operation Babylift during Vietnam) collide with various media forms conjured together in the same space—superimposed type, chat windows, hash tags, 3D motion graphics, printed t-shirts, auto-tune and obvious green-screen.
Through this ADD-inducing delivery of content Steyerl pushes the spatial montage concept articulated by Manovich to the extreme by elevating structural elements such as text browsers to the level of subject. Her embrace of the post-production aesthetics of corporate television, and showcasing of artifacts from the visual vernacular of the personal computer, speak to a certain savvy accelerationism. During a public talk with Keller Easterling, Steyerl described how her experience of working with 3D graphics—i.e. lengthy rendering times—affects her editing. Montage has been replaced by algorithm, by staring at the rendering bar and making edits without being able to see them until hours later—a kind of “speculative editing.”
For Rachel Steven’s full review of the Hito Steyerl exhibition, see MFJ 62 (Fall 2015)