Martha Roesler (b. 1943) & Hito Steyerl (b. 1966) WAR GAMES (05.05.–02.12.2018) in Basel Kunstmuseum.
The title shows, it is about games and wartime. Analogies to online war games, simulations and connotations in context of Baudrillard’s conception of the Hyperrealism and the Simulacra (1994) with his comparisons of Disney Land with WaterGate and the Gulf war. The Simulacra that happens on a screen, a remote reality that become the only reality. The exhibition crossed several floors, with large installation, multiple screens projections, sculptural and wall visual imagery. As a visitor I was invited to walk through, to sit at times in chairs resembling aircraft or playstation seats and being more or less subimmersed in dense, high tech moving imagery, like in a control station or airport tower. I knew Martha Rosler from her war collages (House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home) that I looked at during my UVC course (see blog post), therefore excited to see some her works in situ.
Hito Steyerl very new to me. The companion text of the museum states that ‘Steyerl’s more recent video installations … are among the most advanced work done by visual artists in this medium today.’ (Kunstmuseum Basel, 2018). And one of her work was even called The Tower, a work based on a computer game by the company of Program-Ace based in Kharkiv, Ukraine. What felts somehow strange when reading it, as I lived and worked two years in that city between 2012/13 – together with my wife. How different the first reception is when one can place a memory or personal association with it, with words, with titles. It is a digital composite of images of post-war Iraq, views on Kharkiv, luxury homes simulations and military scenarios bundled in three screens 3D simulations – with the viewer seated in a flexible simulator seat. Rising the question what is real and what is fiction. A good representation of Baudrillard’s Simulacra.
I’ve tried to capture the screen imagery with my phone. and noticing only later that scenes were not captured but obviously the gap, the white in between. What in itself looks to me a different point of view, what is present or absent, what is visible or not, imagined, dreamed, or real (Fig. 1) A glitch or part of a deeper sense? Somehow I could related this to images we see – and still don’t see. As images of wars, simulation or real?
Fig 1: The Tower (2015) Three channel video installation, color, sound, chairs, 8:00min
The shown works were very much a critical interrogation of how visual imagery is presented to us in the current socio-political world, imagery that are made for a purpose. And visual technologies as remote systems, e.g. drones, that do not only act as surveillance cameras but actually kill
Martha Rosler continued with her series House Beautiful: Bringing War Home (2004-2008) that she started in 1967, with Vietnam war replaced by Iraq and Afghanistan War (Fig. 2). For me a step in connecting once more with my UVC studies.