August 15. Eli Cortiñas and Hito Steyerl. Objects Before and After the Wall, Part 1

Thursday, August 15, 20:00
Eli Cortiñas and Hito Steyerl
Objects Before and After the Wall, Part 1

For the first part of Objects Before and After the Wall at TIER, a collaboration with Tlaxcala 3 in Mexico City, we will screen Eli Cortiñas’s Walls Have Feelings (2019) and Hito Steyerl’s The Empty Centre (1998). Separated by two decades, the works uncover relations between objects, walls, and the people who move them/move through them.

In Walls Have Feelings, Cortiñas delves into the ecology of objects and their appearance. The video opens onto the microcosm of dictators’ offices, presenting their architecture and interiors. Newly-filmed scenes alternate with close-ups and landscapes views from sourced images and found footage, gradually unveiling the protagonists of the film: office rooms and walls, which contain, hide and reinforce invisible forms of power. Powers, which stemmed from industrial capitalism and political dictatorships, and which in turn influenced the current neoliberal-type of economic production. The film references labour activities, echoing both present and past, corporeal and cognitive, forms of exploitation. It mixes familiar scenes of workers leaving the factory, laboratories producing all-too-human robots, and the works of artists themselves, which all together creates a navigable, hypnotic loop. Cortiñas evokes the object‘s animist power, delving into something that is embedded in them – as the title remind us. The video becomes an open archive in process, which not only speaks of political powers and their resulting oppression. It also processes the very aesthetic through which these powers operate. ‘The ethnic cleansing of history has become a standard procedure’ (…) ‘silencing the past has become a standard procedure’, states Cortiñas. By displaying lost and invisible events, through reworked images, she digs into visual memory, testing both cultural and cinematic memory itself. (Giulia Civardi, London, 2019)

Hito Steyerl’s film The Empty Centre depicts Potsdamer Platz at a time of rapid change in Berlin. While the early days of post-division Berlin may have held the kernel of utopia, the late 90s were marked by property speculation and its attendant, expansive construction sites. In the film, Potsdamer Platz serves as a narrative vessel for a survey of historical moments in Berlin, from its heyday in the 20s, to its destruction and conversion into a “death strip”, to its massive redevelopment after the Cold War by transnational corporations. Steyerl traces the history of ostracism and exclusion of migrants and minorities, at whose expense the notion of a powerful national center is defined. Steyerl’s film serves as a platform for underrepresented voices in political discourse both then and now, examining how the wall as an object – in the concrete and the abstract – steers the flows of people and things.

Eli Cortiñas is a video artist of Cuban descent, born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in 1979. She was guest professor at the Art Academy Kassel and the Art Academy Mainz and is a newly appointed professor at the Braunschweig University of Art (HBK). Cortiñas has been awarded numerous grants and residencies, including from Fundación Botín, Berlin Senate, Villa Sträuli, Kunstfonds, Goethe Institute, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Rupert, Villa Massimo and Karl-Schmidt-Rottluff. Her artistic practice can be located within the appropriation tradition, using already existing cinema to de- and re-construct identities as well as narratives according to new discourses. Her collage-like video essays and installations mix found imagery with documentary strategies. Her work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions at museums such as Museum Ludwig, Kunsthalle Budapest, CAC Vilnius, SCHIRN Kunsthalle, SAVVY Contemporary, Museum Marta Herford, Kunstraum Innsbruck, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Centre Pompidou, Museum of Modern Art Moscow, Kunstmuseum Bonn and MUSAC et al., as well as in international festivals such as Riga Biennale, Moscow International Biennale for Young Art, Mardin Biennale, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, International Curtas Vila Do Conde and Nashville Film Festival. She lives and works in Berlin.

Hito Steyerl was born in 1966 in Munich. She currently lives and works in Berlin.
Steyerl has studied at the Academy of Visual Arts, Tokyo and the University of Television and Film, Munich.
She also completed a doctorate in philosophy at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.
Steyerl is the recipient of the 2019 Käthe Kollwitz Prize from Akademie der Künste in Berlin. In 2015, Steyerl was awarded the EYE Prize from the EYE Film Institute Netherlands and the Paddy & Joan Leigh Fermor Arts Fund. In 2010, she received the New:Vision Award from the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival.
Objects Before and After The Wall
This project analyzes the wall as an object from different angles: thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, twenty-five years after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement and in the geopolitical framework that requires research in Mexico it’s border condition with Central America and with the United States. The wall as an ideological space and the relationship between objects and walls. The notion of the liminal, the crack, the border and other possible unfoldings.

Objects Before and After the Wall is a collaboration between Tlaxcala 3 in Mexico City and The Institute for Endotic Research in Berlin. It has the 2019 sponsorship of the Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporéneo for theoretical and curatorial research.

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