Hito Steyerl

Lovely Andrea

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CreditsCourtesy of the artist

Lovely Andrea is a video where two women set themselves the project of tracking down a ‘bondage’ photograph taken in the 1980s, in Japan. The protagonists are in fact the artist, Hito Steyerl, and Asagi Ageha, the artist’s translator and also a bondage model. The missing image is that of Steyerl herself, a portrait of the artist as a young woman bound up in elaborate and sexualised knots. Locating it requires the women to undertake a journey through Japan’s bondage industry.

For contemporary audiences, the link between bondage and porn is unmissable. But bondage has an even more questionable origin as a technique aiding the transport and torture of war prisoners. This double association of war and sex remains important for Lovely Andrea’s sophisticated critique of economic relations. Whether the photograph does in fact exist is less of a concern. Even if this were a fictional pretext, Lovely Andrea would still be a documentary – one where the documentary effort would concern less the dramatic recovery of a lost ‘object’ and more the function assigned to the concepts implicated in the journey-quest: loss, captivity, project, industry and certainly objectification. What grounds these concepts in a capitalism of interconnected global markets is young women’s persistent, diverse and meticulously pursued sexualisation as the one solid element of the economy that refuses to melt into air.

Lovely Andrea is a document of a plausible choice available to young women and central to the formation of their subjectivity: the choice of being, rather than having it, all – by becoming, that is, both worker and the commodity.