Lovely Andrea by Hito Steyerl is a 30 minute or so long video in which the artist tries to find a bondage photograph of herself she posed for in Tokyo in 1987.
The video begins with a brief interview with German Steyerl asking her what she is doing and why. She states she is travelling to Tokyo to search for her photograph in which she is bound in the nawa-shibari style. (Characterised by women bound and suspended in mid air, although this was developed from the hojojutsu style of martial art.) The photo is titled ‘Lovely Andrea’.
The footage takes on the role of a documentary style genre, separated only by the flashing of striking white words on a black background, images and clips of old spiderman cartoons and movies, old footage of working women, and prisoners in Guantanamo bay. The repetitive nature of these clips, combined with the choice of audio such as depeche mode, make this piece of video art both unnerving as well as mentally empowering. The female translator, who is herself a bondage model and produces the video, as well performing many acts of self suspension. I found these parts of the film rather dream like and beautiful. Amid clips of herself swinging elegantly through the air she said being suspended made her feel free and independent, as though flying.
But to be suspended by rope is also to be dependant.
I found this statement really interesting, as it made me think about people. So we are all dependant on things. Mainly on one another. For food, fuel, shelter, love, warmth and company. There are many such messages like this throughout the film, which make you wonder just who has the upper hand, the models or their clientele? The people behind, or in front of the camera?
Eventually Hito Steyerl finds her photograph and reveals why this quest had been important; she had used her friends name ‘Andrea’ for the magazine and her friend was later murdered. I feel the artist maybe should have went into this in a bit more detail, which would have made the film a bit more personal, but perhaps this was not her intention.
I can see why Lovely Andrea is strongly referenced as a piece of feminist video art, as it really makes you think about our society, the hypocrisy of censorship, (the banned spiderman teaser, compared with the laxed laws for hardcore bondage pornography (and believe me, all the images in the video were pretty tame!)) and the conclusion that in reality we are all bound by society in one way or another. The young student and aerial performer enjoys what she does and it would be ridiculous to presume she was being exploited because of her field of work. At the end of the day feminism is women breaking from stereotypes of old and doing whatever they please, whether that be raising a family, travelling the world or being a porn star. And so if this woman wants to take her clothes off, swing around on ropes and get paid for arousing old men, then so be it! Good for her!