On October 21st the Artes Mundi 7 Exhibition and Prize in Cardiff opened its doors to the British public, presenting a major exhibition of work from six of the world’s most innovative contemporary artists. Artes Mundi 7 is the UK’s largest contemporary art prize, with the winner receiving the sum of £40,000. The prize is open to artists whose work explores social issues which relate to the theme of ‘The Human Condition’.
This year’s prize show takes place across two venues: National Museum Cardiff and Chapter Gallery. Highlights of this year’s prize show include the world premiere of Transitory Suppository: Act #I Another Leader by Nástio Mosquito (Angola/Belgium), in which a despotic leader of a country called Botrovia begins to propose what he sees as fast and practical solutions to world problems and the premiere of Bedwyr Williams (UK/Wales) piece Tyrrau Mawr (2016) in which he reimagines a mega city in North Wales exploring how these sprawling new cities displace people, communities, histories, creating and destroying in equal measures.
John Akomfrah OBE (UK), presents his diptych film Auto da Fé (2016) which uses the aesthetics of a period drama to consider the historical and contemporary causes of migration, focusing on religious persecution as a major cause of global displacement. Lamia Joreige’s (Lebanon) Under-Writing Beirut explores Lebanon’s complex history of conflict and how Beirut’s past and present continues to affect the city and its people. Amy Franceschini (USA) has travelled to Cardiff from Oslo by boat retracing the migratory journey of seeds, which will explore the politics of food production and the countries that our foods originate from. Neïl Beloufa’s (France/Algeria), will present a series of films including Monopoly (2016) where a group of Ukrainian teenagers to play Monopoly. The playfulness of this work belies the seriousness of the issues it takes on, questioning politics and power structures.
Karen MacKinnon, Artes Mundi’s Director, and Curator said “Artes Mundi 7 brings together the work of six outstanding international artists. Through their work, they examine important global issues such as migration, technology, ecological issues, capitalism and global politics. These artists question what it means to be human in our world and in our time. Whether their works explore the current situation in Angola, fictional future cities, the politics of food production or migration from Syria to Beirut; there is humour, surrealism, and provocation. But what connects this diverse exhibition is relevance and urgency, as they comment on and question the spirit of our age.”
Artes Mundi – Artes Mundi is an international arts organisation based in Cardiff, UK. Established in 2002, Artes Mundi is committed to supporting groundbreaking, international, contemporary, visual artists whose work engages with social reality and lived experience. The Artes Mundi Exhibition and prize takes place biennially, running a sustained programme of outreach and learning projects alongside the public exhibition and prize giving. In 2015 the Artes Mundi 6 Prize was awarded to Theaster Gates. Previous winners are; Teresa Margolles (2013), Yael Bartana (2010), N S Harsha (2008), Eija-Liisa Ahtila (2006), and Xu Bing (2004). Artes Mundi is publicly funded by the Arts Council of Wales and by Cardiff City Council. Other funders include The Colwinston Charitable Trust, The Myristica Trust and the Waterloo Foundation.
THE ARTES MUNDI 7 SHORTLIST
John Akomfrah: John Akomfrah first came to attention in the 1980s as a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, with whom he still collaborates today.
Akomfrah’s work often explores the global diaspora, history, memory, colonialism and its legacy through lens based media. The range of single and multiscreen films allow us to reconsider the ways in which we think about both personal and collective histories, the grand narratives of our times, across nation states and continents. His work has often given voice to underrepresented communities and their universal stories told through the creation of sublime imagery, and evocative and immersive soundtracks.
Auto de Fé (2016): In Auto Da Fé Akomfrah specifically uses the aesthetics of a period drama to consider the historical and contemporary causes of migration; in this work, he focuses on religious persecution as a major cause of global displacement. The subtle historical references combined with its sumptuous costumes, locations, and sets, allude to the reality of migration and persecution that has taken place throughout the centuries.
The film brings together 8 interconnected mass migrations which have taken place during the past 400 years beginning with the little known 1654 fleeing of Sephardic Jews from Catholic Brazil to Barbados. Auto Da Fé then continues to reveal many more examples of displacement throughout history and in the present day for example migrations from Hombori, Mali and Mosul, Iraq. The landscape in which this work was filmed is deliberately ambiguous in an attempt to reflect the universal and ongoing nature of these stories. As in other recent works such as Tropikos (2016) and Vertigo Sea (2016) the ocean plays an important role – it is an intermediate zone between the past and present, local and global and holds the memories of all those individual and collective journeys.
John Akomfrah is represented by Lisson Gallery. For more information about the artist download the Artes Mundi app or visit www.artesmundi.org
Neïl Beloufa: Neïl Beloufa’s installations and environments are created from inexpensive everyday materials together with disparate devices such as sculptural elements, moving screens and found objects. The films at the heart of his surreal and often humorous installations are made in collaboration with a number of non-actors; these films often revolve around game playing or a specific task that the artist has asked his collaborators to perform. The subjects discussed are diverse such as extraterrestrials, nationalism, terrorism and imagined future worlds. The films blur fact and fiction – are the contributors/ actors? Are they discussing real or imagined events? Are they in the past or the future At the centre of Beloufa’s work there is a questioning about how we see the world and our lives, and how we experience local and global political events in the age of technology.
World Domination (2012),: Monopoly (2016) and Counting on People (ongoing)
The film World Domination sees non-professional actors divided into teams of different nationalities and then asked to take part in a geopolitical role play. Each participant is given a role, such as President, Minister of the Interior, Military Leader, etc, and invited to discuss a range of global problems such as poverty, war, abortion, and immigration. Subjects are discussed in rounds and decisions are passed on in a game of relay. The playfulness of this work belies the seriousness of the issues it takes on, questioning politics and power structures. It exposes ways of decision making, flawed reasons, and responses that, if real, could lead to catastrophic results.
Two smaller works revolve around the same themes. In Monopoly (2016) Beloufa invites a group of Ukrainian teenagers to play Monopoly, a game that is based on the capitalist growth model. Another work Counting on People (ongoing) again refers to power structures, but this time in relation to the museum. Here the very same people that set up his exhibition become participants in the artist’s game.
Amy Franceschini / Futurefarmers: Futurefarmers was founded in 1995 by Californian artist Amy Franceschini. The collective comprises of artists, researchers, designers, architects, scientists, and farmers; each bringing a different perspective and expertise to the group. By working collaboratively, they can visualise and understand the way systems interact with and control our everyday lives and begin to question and deconstruct social systems such as food policies, public transportation, and rural farming networks.
Their work provides playful entry points and tools for participants to gain insight into deeper fields of inquiry- not only to imagine but to produce knowledge through experiences with the places we live, materials we touch and food we consume.
Flatbread Society/Seed Journey: Since 2013 Futurefarmers have been leading Flatbread Society, a project centred on a communal space in which people from diverse cultures gather to make flatbread. Seed Journey focuses on the very seeds of grain used to make bread that was brought to Europe from the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago. The seeds have been “rescued”, grown and distributed by the collective since 2013 from a range of sources, such as seeds saved during the Siege of Leningrad and those discovered by archaeologists in an abandoned sauna in Hamar, Norway. During Artes Mundi 7, in an act of reverse migration, Futurefarmers will take these seeds by sailing boat from the UK to the Middle East. They will stop along the way to meet like-minded farmers, artisan bread makers, and organisations, and to collect more seeds.
Futurefarmers are interested in the preservation of the commons as it relates to land use, biological matter and knowledge sharing. Once “weeds” these grains have been domesticated over tens of thousands of years, cultivated by hand and exchanged through a complex hand- to-hand network. Futurefarmers arrived in Cardiff by boat. The boat has also become a sort of “laboratory” where the collective continues their research, the exhibition becomes a “base camp” and we are invited to become part of their journey and to consider the possibility of social change and different futures. For more information about the artist download the Artes Mundi app or visit www.artesmundi.org
Lamia Joreige: Lamia Joreige is a visual artist and filmmaker who lives and works in Beirut. She uses archival documents and fictional elements to reflect on the relationships between individual stories and collective history. Her practice is rooted in the possibilities of representation of the Lebanese wars and their aftermath, more specifically how this troubled past and present instability continues to affect Beirut and its people.
The works in Artes Mundi 7 all come under the title Under-Writing Beirut. Like a palimpsest, her work incorporates various layers of time and existence, creating links between the vestiges that record places, previous realities and the fiction that reinvents them. Underwriting Beirut is split into two interconnected exhibitions across both Artes Mundi sites – National Museum Cardiff and Chapter.
Under-writing Beirut – Mathaf (Museum), in the first chapter of this project Joreige focuses on the National Museum of Beirut. During wars, the museum’s building was destroyed and parts of its small, yet impressive, collection were severely damaged, looted, or lost. In Under-Writing Beirut – Mathaf (2013), Joreige addresses the inaccessibility of the museums stored and archived collections and questions the museum’s place in national identity…
The only object made available to her from the museum archives was a damaged Roman Mosaic depicting the biblical story of the Good Shepherd, alongside photographic evidence of its damage. The mosaic had been struck by a sniper while preparing a strategic viewpoint from which to shoot onto the square outside the museum. What we see in the exhibition; – a re-enactment of the snipers line of sight, a concrete cast of the hole created by the sniper, the black and white pictograms ‘shot’ by pin hole camera from Lamia’s own apartment, a leather bound book that relates to the stories heard and unheard about the museum’s disappeared objects; reveals the complex story of a historical building and its collection in the broader context of Beirut’s troubled past.
Nástio Mosquito: Nástio Mosquito’s diverse practice includes performance, video, music, poetry, installation, and digital art. His work is deliberately challenging, energetic and unpredictable and deals head on with some of the most urgent issues of our times. It confronts politics, war, sexual politics, unrestrained global consumerism and rapid globalisation. Mosquito always takes centre stage, whether working collaboratively or on his own; he often embodies a central character in his work such as the joker, preacher or political leader. His practice is both confrontational and deeply witty, expressing an urgent desire to engage with reality at all levels.
At Artes Mundi 7 Mosquito will premier The Transitory Suppository: the first chapter of a larger project that revolves around the construction of a fictional scenario, in which a despotic leader of a country called Botrovia begins to propose what he sees as fast and practical solutions to world problems. The presentation embraces different elements including installation, video, and graphics and is separated into four acts.
“Transitory Suppository: Act #I Another Leader” sees Nástio taking on the role of a political leader A.L. Moore; an exaggerated character who embodies the antithesis of political correctness; who we see annotating his opening political speech. “Transitory Suppository: Act #II No.Pruritus. No.Ani” references to a complex world in which charity in the form of medical relief is, on the one hand, a humanitarian act, but on the other one is tied up with a local and global health care system driven by powerful supra-national conglomerates. The final acts: “Transitory Suppository: Act #III Light.Boxed” and “Transitory Suppository: Act #IV Stockholm Antidote” can be seen in the Chapter bar, Lightbox and Artes Mundi catalogue. For more information about the artist download the Artes Mundi app or visit www.artesmundi.org
Bedwyr Williams: Bedwyr Williams’ practice draws upon his own life experiences, highlighting and examining the friction between the deadly serious and the banal aspects of modern life. His work creates an idiosyncratic twist that is instantaneously sympathetic as it speaks to our own fears and insecurities in everyday life.
Tyrrau Mawr, 2016: In this work, Williams creates a fictional city around Cadair Idris (Idris’ Chair) near Dolgellau in North Wales. The city draws its inspiration from mega cities built all over the world to house expanding populations and to sate burgeoning state ambition in times of economic boom. The speed at which this kind of mass construction takes place is at once exhilarating and equally terrifying as these sprawling new cities displace people, communities, histories, creating and destroying in equal measures. It’s unlikely that such a development would ever happen around Cadair Idris but as human beings we seldom count anything out if there’s money or opportunity at stake.
The film seems static at first, but as we watch we can notice it moving slowly from day to night. The lives of its inhabitants and the ebb and flow of the city are revealed to us by the the lights that turn on an off in the tall buildings around the lake. The narrator patches a jumble of personal histories and moments from its inhabitants to try and plot the short history of a city barely two decades old. There is also a historical connection to the medium of matte painting. Matte painting is a cinematic trick or device that is added to live-action footage to enable filmmakers to create the illusion of environments that would otherwise be too expensive, or impossible, to build. Computer technology has long replaced traditional matte painting, but the skills involved creating the illusion of space remain broadly the same and especially interesting in the context of a museum with an extensive collection of landscape paintings. Audio Visual installation supported by Canon and Torpedo Factory Group.
Karen MacKinnon: As an international curator based in Wales, MacKinnon has worked with influential arts organisations for the past sixteen years, including Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea and Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff. In 2005 she was appointed as Curator for the Venice Biennale. During her career, MacKinnon has organised both contemporary and historical exhibitions and has developed a particular interest in site specific and socially engaged practice. She has curated solo exhibitions and projects with several international artists, including Orlan, Tim Davies, Bedwyr Williams, Shimabuku, Sue Williams, Nick Crowe and Juneau Projects and has worked with many artists including Mark Wallinger, Phil Collins, Richard Billingham and Laura Ford.
Group exhibitions include: Somewhere Else – Wales at the Venice Biennale which included the work of Peter Finnemore, Laura Ford, Paul Granjon and a residency with Bedwyr Williams. In 2008 she co-curated with Maria Clara Bernal Displaced: contemporary art from Colombia which showed the work of 15 artists such as Oscar Munoz, Jose Alejandro Restrepo and Maria Elvira Escalon. Other curated exhibitions include Shimabuku’s Swansea Jack Memorial Swimming Competition, Rut Blees’ Luxembourg Folly. In 2013 she curated a number of off-site projects including Let’s see what happens… an exhibition of the work of 7 artists from Wales and China across 5 sites in Swansea.
Exhibition Runs: 21st October 2016 – 26th February 2017 Prize Announcement: 26th January 2017 National Museum Wales Cardiff