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TRAVELING IMAGES: THE ART OF HITO STEYERL

Hito Steyerl, November, 2004, still from a color video, 25 minutes.

IT IS THE SHEER VERSATILITY and multiplicity of global media—the circulatory flux of images, their supple and instantaneous distribution networks—that render the task of documentary filmmaking today more fraught than ever. Or so argues the Berlin-based Hito Steyerl in her 2007 essay “Documentary Uncertainty,” where the artist discusses how contemporary works in the genre bespeak a kind of paradox: Some rely “on authoritative truth procedures [that intensify] the aura of the court room, the penitentiary or the laboratory,” while others end in a postmodern relativism unable “to distinguish the difference between facts and blatant misinformation.¹

When so much of contemporary politics runs on precisely this kind of misinformation, the need to reinvent documentary practice—in a way that retains its social engagement and historical integrity despite its internal

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