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Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  437 ratings  ·  29 reviews

What is the function of art in the era of digital globalization?

In Duty Free Art, filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl wonders how we can appreciate, or even make art in the present age. What can we do when arms manufacturers sponsor museums and some of the world’s most valuable artworks are used as a fictional currency in a global futures market that has nothing to do with t

Hardcover, 251 pages
Published October 1st 2017 by Verso
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May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Thinks through the production, circulation, and consumption of art in an increasingly undemocratic world, across a series of short, dense essays barbed with caustic wit. The pieces here range from considering the origins of spam and the tropes of the scam email to the relationship between tax havens and art freeports; many are drawn from talks, some feel sort of clumsy on print, but all are thought provoking.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, sociopolitical
this was the first book I finished this year. the title might make it look like an art book on first glance but notice the phrase 'planetary civil war' in the title. it's about the globalized world crumbling apart and devolving into a million little extra-territorial tax havens (see: switzerland, the caymans, the panama papers, etc). this is more a commentary on neoliberalism than on the art itself. but it does take time to criticize artists and critics who could be doing good as opposed to norm ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less about art than I anticipated and a lot more focused on the contemporary Art in relation to politics and globalization. Steyerl’s work makes a lot more sense after reading her well-supported theories. A lot of interesting topics about the future of new media art, at times it was a little dense or too abstract to me, but my favorite essay was called International Disco Latin!
Xaq Rothman
I will admit this one was somewhat mystifying. As someone who is not particularly involved with contemporary fine art except as an occasional consumer, some of the essays seemed to whiz right by me. As someone who enjoys creative thinking about the effects of the Internet on art, politics, culture, etc., though, I enjoyed it. Steyerl definitely has a sense of humor and wordplay that is fun to see.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
slightly list-y run on sentences that clobber you with a pessimistic lens of our world. But! A lot of ideas worth pondering.

I struggle with art writing that is mostly about exposing the ills of the world instead of exploring the grace of art despite our humanity.
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed the chapter outlining the history of both spam & SPAM, and now will forever hold in my memory and wonderment that as a delicacy in Hawaii, traditional dishes from around the world have been creatively reimagined to incorporate spam, most beautifully producing the delightful reincarnation of macaroni cheese as Spamaroni & Cheese. What else will I retain from the book? A re-remembering of what was already half known about the neoliberal, privatised, automated, unsanctioned, wa ...more
Sam Russek
Someone else said this collection is “mystifying” and I agree—there were definitely portions that went over my head, not because of the subject matter, I don’t think, but because it was occasionally difficult to follow the structure of Steyerl’s argument. Take chapter 13, Let’s Talk About Fascism, for instance: it begins by defining two kinds of representation—cultural and political, and the way cultural representation increases at the expense of and in an inverse relationship to political repre ...more
Callum Cound
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-theory
In 'Duty Free Art', Steyerl's iconic and accessible writing style shines through in this collection of recent essays/ lectures. Working through the concepts that centuries of unregulated art market capitalism have given us, she makes important points around how we can organise, collectivise and resist against what seems to be all pervasive challenges in the art-world.
I super recommend the chapter on 'International Disco Latin' (a version of which can be found here:
ashes ➷
Feb 01, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe this book has no low reviews with text... I don't know if I should be suspicious, but the book itself is practically unreadable. I lost all confidence in Steyerl when she tried to get deep about--wait for it--Lorem Ipsum. The use of Lorem Ipsum represents a relationship between absence and presence now. And then she tried to pessimistically analyze the change in text in Lorem Ipsum, because the original phrase is jumbled in it, and made some claim that this was negative and remin ...more
CY Forrest
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's patchy, uneven, sometimes incomprehensible (to me at least), but I was completely absorbed by this brilliant book. It took me through the painful yet enlightening stages of some kind of 21st century decline and rebirth in a way that's desperately needed now. Someone needed to break free, and Hito Steyerl moves on a higher plain altogether with the ability to see above and beyond the immediate problems of serving an increasingly uniform world of algorithmic instruction, vast spreadsheet data ...more
Mtume Gant
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is easily one of the most important polemics of our era. A collection of necessary analysis of our constantly changing relationship to the world as beings, creators, consumers and citizens. It’s wide ranging but incredibly coherent and always connected. Stereyl is a legit genius of thought. This book is of the highest levels and frankly I can’t think of a non fiction book published in the last 10 years that is more important globally. Read it.
Helen Varley
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this collection of recent articles and essays confirms hito steyerl as one of the most exciting and inspiring thinkers of our time. her style is playful, provocative and poetic, and highly readable. she deals with myriad complex topics in ways that are engaging and often surprising. for example, a chapter exploring the implications of 3D technologies leaps unexpectedly into the 1990s war in Bosnia-Herzogovina and, curiously, kisses. drawing connections between such disparate events and ideas, st ...more
One of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. This will definitely have to be reread several times to get the most out of it. Although I can’t claim to understand everything, I loved Steyerl’s writing styles expressiveness and originality, an originality I prefer over simplification in her case.
Charlie Kruse
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hito Steyerl plays with language in such a concise and cogent way, it would be hard to navigate contemporary art circles without being somewhat acquainted with her. Her ability to explain the current conditions of neoliberalism, the recent rise of fascism, and the methods to confront them are always illuminating.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some parts of this blew my mind while some didn’t, but the analysis is always compete and compelling. You don’t find yourself to this book by accident so if you’re here, you’re meant to be. Pick it up.
a self-diagnosis of contemporary art neuroses and their uptake into global interests is as jittery as it sounds. clamors of ketamine ventures drown out the promise of an intentional meditation on the situation it tries to carve out. it unfortunately is required reading.
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great follow-up after The Wretched of the Screen. Certainly one of the best out there who is really capable of dissecting media, politic, art and technology with witty comments and anachronistic montage-style writing.
David Rice
Sep 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dense, compelling, and often frightening look at the contemporary connections between art, war, fraud, unreality, and the Internet. It reads like a series of sci-fi stories that one suspects are all too true. Occasionally too clever for its own good, but very often arresting and profound.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Super interesting but definitely not an easy read. A work of art in itself, this thought palace that is all over the place.
T_T no words for how incisive + imaginative steyerl's writing is. ...more
Vuk Trifkovic
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great set of essays in the intersection of art, technology, and politics. Informed and inspired. Great pairing with "New Dark Age" by Bridle. ...more
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
highly (overly?) speculative but fun
Steyerl takes the reader on a fun but anxiety-inducing journey. Often the links she makes can seem flimsy, with a lot of hypotheticals, but her viewpoint and style are charming nonetheless
Alex Dabi Zhevi
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I resisted Hito Steyerl for a long time... but between this collection and the Mission Accomplished Belanciege work, I can't help but be converted, devoted and I don't know what else. ...more
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Philosophy at the intersection of modern art, markets, politics, war, and the fractured, filtered, digital present times. It's a collection of separate articles and talks but they all feed into each other, building a toolkit for modern media critique. Steyerl has the ability to draw connections in the most unlikely places and I totally buy it every time. Art is inextricable from the shady off-the-grid funders as well as the palatial exhibition displays by authoritarians in need of PR. But so are ...more
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: s-tier
📳💳💡🤳🖼💻🕹 📝🎀 i love her!!
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rated it it was amazing
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Dana Osburn
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Hito Steyerl is a German filmmaker, visual artist, and author in the field of essayist documentary video. Her principal topics of interest are media, technology, and the global circulation of images. Steyerl holds a Ph.D in Philosophy from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. She is currently a professor of New Media Art at the Berlin University of the Arts.

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“might be that the contemporary economy of art relies more on presence than on more traditional ideas of labor power tied to the production of objects.” 1 likes
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