Magazine article Art Monthly

Hito Steyerl: In Free Fall

Magazine article Art Monthly

Hito Steyerl: In Free Fall

Article excerpt

Hito Steyerl: In Free Fall

Chisenhale Gallery London 4 November to 19 December

Financial crises, plane crashes, controlled explosions and globalisation are key themes in Hito Steyerl's latest film In Free Fall, 2010, set in a Californian Mojave desert airport 'boneyard'. So-called boneyards have been filling up with disused jets since the hikes in fuel prices and the onset of the latest economic crisis. An ageing airport owner, filmed in high definition before a mangled jet undergoing dismemberment in a sweltering panoramic landscape, remains philosophical: 'I'm thinking, is this for real? ... You're making money no matter what you sell!' Whether for scrap or the Chinese DVD boom, aluminium remains lucrative. There is big money to be made designing spectacular explosions for the movies. 'So recyclable! So recyclable!' echoes the film's refrain, rhyming with a host of aviation industry ads and jingles wishing clients 'a very pleasant flight', and it ends with a hot-air balloon dissolving into a pink sunset from a music video on YouTube.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Steyerl's film is a self-reflexive form of recycling, and the narrative function is largely given over to a DVD-player, lying in the dust--occasionally aided by a human hand switching discs and splicing genres. Its repertoire includes a variety of in-flight safety demonstration videos (perfect flight attendants fitting oxygen masks to perfectly smiling children), disaster-movie film clips (Palestinian sympathisers sequestering the Air France plane at Entebbe), music videos (Nancy Sinatra defying gravity in a hot-air balloon singing 'Up, Up and Away'; beware, you will be singing it for days), champagne being poured and occasional bombs being dropped. In the alternation between the non-time of the desert and the racy world of the DVD, causality and time become irrelevant. Potentially significant connections are offered for us to solder together as we please. Plane crashes peaked in 1929, coinciding with the Wall Street Crash, says Steyerl. But the collapse of the Twin Towers is notable for its absence from the film's catalogue of disasters. Perhaps it is re-enacted through a proliferating series of substitutes.

Documentary truth, too, descends into the precarious and hysterical. The film delights in the industry's many psychological tricks for convincing us that the outrageous exception is the norm, but it does so to make the point that people are less recyclable than jumbo jets. …

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