Duty Free Art by Hito Steyerl ****

Reading dates 13 – 21 October 2018

There was dissent in DiaMat. At least two of the five members did not like the book, complaining that it did not reach any depth, did not have a clear point, circled around the issues, was an exercise in poetic licence. Yes, maybe those claims are true but I did like Steyerl’s attempt to capture the zeitgeist, to present an immediate future that is as believable as it is scary, a little like PD James’s ‘Children of Men’ or China Miéville’s ‘The City and the City’. There is also something Ballardian and Ginsbergian about it.The chapters are a set of lectures that offer a network of ideas, rather than a point. Her images are clever and persistent. She covers spam, scams, online romances, new artistic spaces, artist’s labour, freeport’s, Syria, drones, Fascism, kisses, 3D printing, art writing.

It is as light as it is wide-ranging and enjoyable to read. She does write like an artist (rather than a philosopher or an anthropologist, but I think that was a strength apart from the amount of rhetorical questions. If I had been an editor, I would have taken care that it read more like a book and less like a set of lectures.