Hito Steyerl b. 1966
Lovely Andrea (2007)
2007 / Video / color / sound / 1S / 30' 00
If all pictures became current, in that they pass by and in doing so, are connectable with one another, whether elegantly or obscenely, through translation or association—how would it be possible to fasten down a picture? Hito Steyerl’s light-hearted picture translations are about fastening things in an elegant-obscene way: In Tokyo she is looking for a photo series that she posed for in 1987 as a “rope bondage” model. While making inquiries with experts and authorities in the bondage arts (which are mainly marketed online nowadays), she found what she was looking for in a magazine archive. The cinematic tension is extremely high just now says the translator while Steyerl looks through photos of herself from her days as a film student. Something that fastens, but no biographical final revelation; instead, the discovered photographs fall into the slipstream of an informally networked archive of a life with bondage as conveyed by the media—in the sense that the master and slave games, as they’re called, have become entirely normal.
Citizen Kane-like detectives cross through clever cascades of images to which bits of super hero cartoons are added, along with Depeche Mode, X-Ray Spex, girls with needle and thread in the video clip sweatshop. Picture censorship once applied to tied-up models, today it applies to the “Spiderman” teaser with the net stretched between the Twin Towers; some types of captivation are war crimes, others take their place in the art world. And the interpreter, who is a bondage model, student (of web design!) and, of course, a translator, assumes the role of filmmaker as an alter ego; she is suspended in the act of self definition qua self suspension. Self suspension occurs in history and also, as reversed in Steyerl’s montage: from face and identity to “genital,” not understood as looking at, but as the logic of the origins (to be bared), the dissolution of medial clichés in power issues and—in the production shots that frame the film—the redemption of the act in the accident.
Lovely Andrea relates to the search for a photography taken in Tokyo around 1987. The photo shows the artist half naked and tied up, a bondage picture in the nawa-shibari style, characterised by women bound and suspended in the air. Today Japanese bondage is a subgenre of pornography. But it developed from the martial arts, hojojutsu being the act of using of a rope to capture, transport and torture criminals. An aestetic act from the start, only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did it acquire a sensual and erotic dimension.
"But in a wider context, there is bondage all over the place", the video states at one point, to the accompainment of a montage of Japanese bondage girls, the American superhero Spiderman and bound captives in the US-detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay. By associatively linking desire and bondage, voluntary subjection and captivity, dependencies, networks, complicity, and cliques, Steyerl creates a polysemous play of thought: Who are the string pullers? Who are the puppets? How do things stand with the pictures?
Bondage in Lovely Andrea is a universal metaphor.