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SOUND

WATER WORLD

Hito Steyerl, Liquidity Inc., 2014, HD video (color, sound, 30 minutes), wood, plastic, lounge seating. Installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 2017. Photo: Caitlin Cunningham.

THE FIRST TIME I saw Hito Steyerl’s Liquidity Inc., 2014, I didn’t actually see it—I could only hear it. It was opening night at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, which acquired the piece in 2015 but took it out of storage for the first time this past December. You know what it’s like to try and see anything at an opening, especially a thirty-minute video. The room was buzzy with chatter, and the viewing area was crowded with people lounging on beanbags, networking, posing, and making images of their own.

So I wandered into the next gallery, which was empty. It is almost always empty. The John Hancock Founders Gallery at the ICA is a corridor that runs the length of one edge of the building, with a glass wall facing Boston Harbor. The passage’s interior wall is white, but nothing hangs on it. Indeed, the only object on any of its walls is a glass panel at one end,

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