“Virtual Leonardo’s Submarine” (2020) is the virtual version of a three-part video installation which Hito Steyerl presented at the Venice Biennale in 2019. In this, the artist draws parallels between Leonardo da Vinci’s designs for a submarine and the Italian armaments company Leonardo Finmeccanica, which is partially owned by the Italian government.
In 1515, Leonardo designed a weapon in the form of a submarine to defend Venice from attacks by the Ottoman Empire. It was designed to be able to sink unseen enemy ships. For fear of abuse, Leonardo hid his destructive invention behind nebulous descriptions and encrypted diagrams.
The VR application allows you to dive into the open sea. Underwater, three curved screens show film images generated by artificial intelligence: Images of Leonardo’s drawings, Venetian canals, and the flood barrier M.O.S.E designed to protect Venice from flood disasters. Corruption scandals delayed the construction project, which began in 2004, until it was put back into operation in 2020.
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