Artes Mundi UK’s Biggest Contemporary Art Prize Shortlist Revealed

The sixth Artes Mundi Prize shortlist was announced yesterday (12 December 2013) by Karen MacKinnon, Artes Mundi’s new Director & Curator. It includes outstanding artists from eight countries: Carlos Bunga (Portugal), Karen Mirza and Brad Butler (UK), Omer Fast(Israel), Theaster Gates (USA), Sanja Iveković (Croatia), Ragnar Kjartansson (Iceland),Sharon Lockhart (USA), Renata Lucas (Brazil), Renzo Martens (The Netherlands).
Two invited selectors, Adam Budak, an independent curator currently based in Washington and Sabine Schaschl, Director and Curator of Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, reviewed 800 nominations from 70 countries before choosing the shortlist. They particularly looked for artists whose work explores and comments on the human condition and lived experience.
This year’s shortlist is a diverse selection of international artists spanning different generations and cultures. It includes some of the pioneers of current contemporary art practice on the world stage, and the opportunity to showcase their work in this major exhibition is a huge cultural coup for Wales.
The Artes Mundi 6 Exhibition will celebrate and interrogate the shortlisted artists’ exploration of shared global themes. Artists Renata Lucas, Carlos Bunga and Theaster Gates all delve into the fiercely contested arena of urban space, exposing the politics of social control that define every one of us. The everyday urban environment that we all take for granted is revealed as a battleground for our minds, hearts, wallets and obedience. Through a broad range of media and personal engagement their work points to the forces fighting over the individual and the possible strategies allowing individuals to gain a measure of control over their own lives. Sanja Iveković, Omer Fast and Renzo Martens continue this thread but more specifically address media representation and manipulation, examining the virtual spaces we inhabit within our own minds and the shared cultural sphere.
Many of the artists on the shortlist work in collaboration with individuals and communities. For example Sharon Lockhart’s poetic films and photographs involve working closely, over a long period of time, with groups and individuals from the unrepresented and unseen sections of society. The work of Karen Mirza and Brad Butler questions what we mean by these notions of collaboration and participation. Their practice includes film, performance, curating and publishing. Ragnar Kjartansson’s work also involves collaboration, often with musicians, in performance and installations through which he explores themes of friendship, human emotions, love and beauty. All these artists use a wide range of media, actions and strategies to comment on what it means to be human in contemporary society.
Karen MacKinnon, Artes Mundi’s Director and Curator, said:
“The selectors for Artes Mundi 6 have chosen an astonishing group of artists from an extensive, worldwide list of nominations. I very much look forward to working with them, and to creating an exhibition next October that will give local and international audiences the opportunity to engage with some of today’s most exciting international artists. There will be artists from different cultures and generations and an amazing array of artistic practices. Their work will form an exhibition that will be challenging, playful, moving and, above all, will emphasise the importance of art that challenges our perspectives and enriches our lives.

“Artes Mundi 6 promises to be a major cultural event in Cardiff, a vibrant and exciting experience of performance, music, site-specific installations, film, lectures and seminars based in the National Museum and Chapter Arts Centre, and spilling out onto the streets of the capital and beyond.”
Adam Budak, one of the selectors, commented:
“Artes Mundi offers a unique opportunity to acknowledge artists who are engaged in a transformation of contemporary society by considering the urgent issues the world is concerned with and by using a language which speaks for both the individual on a subjective level and the community on a social platform. Focussed on site specificity and the topicality of interests, Artes Mundi’s artists bridge the gap between art and life, thus emphasising the role of art as an integral part of the human condition and humanity’s creative capital.”
Sabine Schaschl added:
“Artes Mundi is really important not only for its fabulous nominations and its exhibition of great artists, but also because it encourages the selected artists to develop site specific work bridging their working practice with the particular social and cultural environment and framework of Cardiff.”
A major exhibition of works by the shortlisted artists at Wales’s National Museum of Art in Cardiff will underline the scope of the Artes Mundi Prize. The 17-week exhibition, from 25 October 2014 to February 2015, will occupy almost 800 square metres of contemporary galleries at the Museum and extend to Chapter and to other sites in the city centre and across Wales.  
As well as the Artes Mundi 6 Exhibition and Prize, an extended programme of exhibitions and events will also include collaboration between Artes Mundi and Mostyn, resulting, in 2014, in a major exhibition by Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin at Mostyn in Llandudno.
The UK’s entry Karen Mirza and Brad Butler have worked together since 1998, and in 2004 formed, an artist-run space for the production, discussion and dissemination of practices engaged with the moving image, politics, technology and aesthetics.’s role as a cooperative environment is directly related to the centering of Mirza and Butler’s own practice upon collaboration, dialogue and the social. Since 2007 they have pursued a strain of practice entitled The Museum of non Participation This ongoing body of work confronts (non) participation and the socio-political in art works. This Museum consistently evolves through the geo-political ground upon which its works are produced and presented, in keeping with its initial formation. Thus far this work has been presented in Egypt, Pakistan, Germany and the UK.

Mirza and Butler have recently launched a new film, entitled Deep State, commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and made in collaboration with science fiction author China Mieville which takes its starting point in different moments of political struggle. A sister film to Deep State, Hold Your Ground was first presented as an Art on the Underground commission at Canary Wharf Tube Station April 25 – May 24 2012. Other upcoming projects include a solo exhibition at the Walker Art Centre opening on 18th April 2013 and Implicated Theatre: a year long project working with the Theatre of the Oppressed, the Migrants Resource Centre and the Centre for Possible Studies. Brad and Karen’s political alignment directly informs not only the content of their work but their collective approach to production.

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