Mobile Pedagogy Units

“Mobile Pedagogy Units: Video Tutorials, Lecture-Performances, and Hito Steyerl’s Didactic Educational .MOV Files”

For the “Ordinary Media” Series at Northwestern University, and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference (SCMS) 2017

Video distribution platforms have ushered in new modes of amateur and public pedagogy, circulating knowledge through user-generated tutorials that are accessed via always on technologies. Two recent video works by Hito Steyerl explore the visual logic of this ubiquitous pedagogical output and probe the media infrastructures that undergird it: How Not To Be Seen, A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013) and Is The Museum a Battlefield? (2013). In the former, Steyerl links the standard video makeup tutorial to early WWII military training films screened via “mobile cinema units.” Eschewing lessons in hypervisibility, she furnishes instructions for cosmetic camouflage to evade the surveillant gaze of biometric detection. Operating within a similarly pedagogical idiom, Is the Museum a Battlefield? comprises a lecture-performance tracing a bullet’s trajectory from a battleground in Van, Turkey, to the coffers of Lockheed Martin, to the funders of the Art Institute of Chicago.

These videos orient viewers toward the geopolitical infrastructures shaping the everyday experience of ordinary media, attending to how this experience participates in the training of users’ affects. In the process, How Not To Be Seen and Is the Museum a Battlefield? attune users to how daily encounters with always on devices intersect with states of “always on” warfare and the militarized technologies that facilitate them. Extending the pedagogical premises of these works, mapping the webs of relation among Steyerl’s “didactic educational” video files offers a set of tactics for the critical use of ordinary media.