A summary of Hito Steryerl’s presentation
of the November project at the Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea
on 6th November 2003, within the framework of the conferences
on Artistic Proposals of Today, here and there.
Hito Steyerl has produced a variety of work as a filmmaker
and author in the field of essayist documentary filmography
and post-colonial critique, both as a producer and a
theorist. Her works are situated on an interface between
the cinema and fine arts, and between theory and practice.
Her principal topics of interest are: cultural globalisation,
feminism, culture, global migration and racism.
The presentation was centred around the November project
which deals with Andrea Wolf, a close childhood friend
of hers, and with emigration from the centre to the
periphery. It also focuses on terrorism and on different
spaces and subjectivities. The starting point for this
work is an S-8 feminist martial arts film that Andrea
and Hito made together. “We were interested in
fighting scenes, Andrea and I beat-up groups of men.
We fought without any arms, because only villains use
ARMS”, Hito Steyerl declared.
Several years’ later, Andrea Wolf ended up being
declared an enemy of the state. “There was a warrant
to find and capture her because she was considered to
be a member of the Red Army. This organisation was responsible
for blowing up a prison for immigrants waiting to be
deported to their country of origin”, Hito Steyerl
explained. Andrea Wolf decided to go underground and
she left for Kurdistan where she joined the PKK Women’s
Army. In October 1998 a violent struggle was unleashed
in the North of Iraq between the PKK and the Turkish
Army. Andrea Wolf was arrested and subsequently assassinated.
“This conflict has taken the lives of 30,000 people
just in the nineties. My friend is one of them”,
Hito Steyerl declared.
Going over the film they filmed fifteen years earlier,
Hito Steyerl found several coincidences between the
fiction represented by the short film and reality. Although
Hito is the one to die in the film, and it is Andrea
who kills the villains responsible for her friend’s
death. “The film has become a fiction document
that represents what our fantasies were and how our
desires were structured”, Hito Steyerl explained.
For Hito Steyerl, this film represents a kind of ethical
responsibility for Andrea Wolf’s death and for
this reason, she has begun research into her death from
a different angle. According to her, the main question
is how to pass the images taken using Super 8 to those
images that are now being generated around the figure
of her friend and that are made on the computer.
As an example of these current images, Hito Steyerl
showed a poster that appeared in several Germany cities
shortly after Andrea Wolf’s death in which her
friend is shown to be a martyr of the Kurd cause. “For
me, when I came across this image it was an invitation
to start research”, she declared. Another example
of this process was an image of a demonstration held
in Rome on the occasion of the arrest and sentencing
of Abdula Ocalan. During this demonstration, images
of Andrea Wolf were shown as one of the martyrs of the
When considering this project, another question that
is of particular interest to Hito Steyerl is the question
affecting cultural referents. The film she made together
with Andrea shows the cultural referents they handled
at the time: martial art films and some American films
that presented armed and dangerous women such as “Kill
pussycat, kill faster”. These travelling images
are one of the priority aspects of Hito Steyerl’s
research. “The film showed our referential icons.
It is strange to observe that, years later, Andrea has
become a referential icon for many people”, Hito
The importance of the use of marital arts is a point
that directly relates the fiction represented in the
film to reality. As Hito Steyerl explained, Andrea Wolf
continued to practice these arts whilst she was underground
and, moreover, she instructed her companions in the
Women’s Army, it was an important communication
element between them. Hito Steyerl insisted that the
massive use of these arts is a example of world militarisation,
“they are no longer used for what they were created
for. These arts are now part of the war. They have undergone
a process of globalisation thanks to the use the American
army has made of them”, she declared.
In the opinion of Hito Steyerl, we are no longer living
in Eisenstein’s October , we are now living in
a period which she calls November and this is the name
given to the project she is currently working on. According
to her, it is a period which starts at the moment when
the concept of revolution as an internationalist idea
of socio-political and economic emancipation has ended
and where local struggles can no longer be internationalised.