Gigantic secret museums crop up nowadays in no-man’s-lands that circumvent national sovereignties and are closed to the public. They are duty-free storage facilities where works of art – albeit sealed in their packing cases – are used as alternative currency for the circulation of assets worth billions from one end of the world to the other: a borderless art trapped in permanent transit zones; an art exempt from tax but not from the requirement to be a resource, or a front.
Is it still possible to produce and even appreciate art in a time such as ours, ravaged by permanent civil wars and hostage to multinationals ready to capitalize on perpetual reconstruction, perhaps even embellishing such projects with an avant-garde museum designed by a starchitect? What value do art institutions have today if their principal purpose is to embellish the public image of this or that regime? Is it still possible to give back to art its autonomy?
Steyerl trawls through archives of Wikileaks and fake news, the dark web and online dating scams, to identify with divinatory precision a strategy of counter-attack and resistance. With razor-sharp writing she reconstructs the elements of an art capable of becoming an insurrectionary practice, free of any imperative to be exhibited, to represent, educate, embody values or serve a cause or master. A duty-free art to eschew the temptation to be dragged into the abyss, surrounded by the white noise of contemporaneity.