Hito Steyerl: Factory of the Sun
SJMA presents the landmark installation Hito Steyerl’s Factory of the Sun (2015), a joint acquisition between the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and SJMA. The critically acclaimed, immersive video debuted at the 2015 Venice Biennale. It is inspired by a quote from Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto (1985), describing machines as “made of pure sunlight.” In the video, Steyerl explains: “Our machines are made of pure sunlight. Electromagnetic frequencies. Light pumping through fiberglass cables. The sun is our factory.” The premise of machines made of pure sunlight is not a romantic one for the Berlin-based artist. Steyerl has long attuned herself to the power of image and their reproduction, particularly documentary images, to manipulate our worldview.
Factory of the Sun tells a surreal story of workers whose forced dance moves in a motion capture studio are turned into artificial sunshine. The story is based on an actual YouTube phenomenon (her studio assistant’s brother whose viral homemade dance videos were used as a model for Japanese anime characters) and a news story about an experiment at CERN nuclear research facility that claimed to have measured a particle traveling faster than the speed of light. On screen, Steyerl interweaves fact and fiction; a montage of YouTube dance videos, drone surveillance footage, real documentation of recent international student uprisings combines with video game characters, fake news, and dancing, gold lamé-costumed avatars. In this imaginative reality spun from Haraway’s theory, the motion capture studio’s glowing grid of blue LED lights extends beyond the screen into the gallery, like a Star Trekian “holodeck” able to materialize a different world in three dimensions. Modern warfare, corporate culture, and anti-capitalist resistance movements are played out by disembodied characters—avatars, bots, or proxies for the human viewers who watch the video from the vantage of reclined beach chairs.
Hito Steyerl: Factory of the Sun is supported by the SJMA Exhibitions Fund, with generous contributions from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Lipman Family Foundation, Ian Reinhard, and Mr. Cole Harrell and Dr. Tai-Heng Cheng.
Programs at the San José Museum of Art are made possible by generous support from the Museum's Board of Trustees, a Cultural Affairs Grant from the City of San José, the Lipman Family Foundation, Yvonne and Mike Nevens, Facebook Art Department, the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Adobe, Yellow Chair Foundation, the SJMA Director's Council and Council of 100, the San José Museum of Art Endowment Fund established by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and The William Randolph Hearst Foundation.