The Benesse Prize is for the first time presented in Asia and will award an outstanding artist at the 2016 Singapore Biennale.
Awarded at the Venice Biennale for its past ten editions, the 11th Benesse Prize has recently announced its shortlist from this year’s Singapore Biennale, including East and Southeast Asian artists.
On 25 October 2016, Japan’s Benesse Holdings Inc. (Benesse) and Singapore Art Museum (SAM) announced a shortlist of five artists for the 11th edition of the Benesse Prize, this year presented for the first time in Asia at the Singapore Biennale (SB2016) after ten editions at the Venice Biennale.
The Prize winner will receive a commission to create a work to be exhibited at Benesse Art Site Naoshima and a cash prize of JPY3,000,000 (approximately USD28,570) from Benesse. The award presentation will take place during Singapore Art Week 2017.
Benesse Prize 2016: Homecoming
The Benesse Prize was established in 1995 on the occasion of the “TransCulture” exhibition, organised by The Japan Foundation and the Fukutake Science and Culture Foundation (since 2012, Fukutake Foundation) with the sponsorship of Benesse Corporation and under the patronage of the 46th Venice Biennale.
The Benesse Prize at the Venice Biennale was inspired by the idea of creating a link between Venice and Naoshima, two places on opposite sides of the world that are united by a similar environment, being both surrounded by water and aiming to promote visual arts connecting local and global contexts. Two decades after its inaugural edition, the Prize announced its move to Asia, in order to strengthen Benesse’s ties to the continent where it is based, and champion the art of the region in partnership with Singapore Art Museum and the Singapore Biennale.
Ms Akiko Miki, International Artistic Director of Benesse Art Site Naoshima, is quoted in the press release announcing the Prize’s move to Asia (PDF download) as saying:
During the two decades since the establishment of the Benesse Prize in 1995, the contemporary art scene in Asia became much more active and diversified. Benesse Art Site Naoshima has been working with Asian artists for different projects to date, and we are delighted that with this shift to Asia and through our collaboration with the Singapore Biennale we are able to further deepen our involvement in the development of contemporary art in Asia, as well as to enhance interregional exchanges and networks in the field. Recognising Singapore Art Museum’s unique focus on Southeast Asian contemporary art, we hope that the Benesse Prize will contribute to the understanding and development of contemporary art in Asia by offering a plurality of perspectives.
Past prize winners include Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang (1995), Thailand’s Rirkrit Tiravanija (2003), French-Algerian Adel Abdessemed (2007) and Argentinian Adrián Villar Rojas (2011) among others. The laureates have all realised semi-permanent or permanent installations for Benesse Art Site Naoshima.
The Benesse Prize 2016 jury consists of influential museum and institutional professionals based in Asia:
- Luckana Kunavichayanont, Director, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
- Dr Susie Lingham, Creative Director, Singapore Biennale 2016
- Akiko Miki, International Artistic Director, Benesse Art Site Naoshima; Co-Director, Yokohama Triennale 2017
- Fumio Nanjo, Director, Mori Art Museum
- Suhanya Raffel, Executive Director, M+
Benesse Prize 2016: the shortlisted artists
The shortlisted artists for the 11th edition of the Benesse Prize are:
- Martha Atienza, Philippines/ Netherlands
- Bui Cong Khanh, Vietnam
- Ade Darmawan, Indonesia
- Qiu Zhijie, China
- Pannaphan Yodmanee, Thailand
1. Martha Atienza — Endless Hours at Sea (2014/2016)
Martha Atienza (b. 1981, Manila, the Philippines) bases her art on sociological observation and research, by studying her immediate environment. She investigates the ways in which art can be used as a tool for effecting social change and development. Now based between Bantayan Island in the Philippines and Rotterdam in the Netherlands, she graduated with a BFA from the AKI Academy of Art and Design in Enschede, the Netherlands and has participated in the art programme at the Kuvataideakatemia of the University of the Arts Helsinki, Finland.
Atienza received the Thirteen Artists Award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2015, and the Ateneo Art Award in 2012, with residency grants in Liverpool, Melbourne, New York and Singapore. In 2016, she was the recipient of the first Mercedes Zobel/Outset residency at Gasworks in London.
Her work for the Singapore Biennale is entitled Endless Hours at Sea (2014/2016) and is a video, sound and light installation that explores the “tempestuous emotional and psychological relationship” humankind has with water. Historically, seas and oceans have been treated as territories to be mapped and conquered, but travelling by water is like existing in a liminal space, in between ‘somewhere’ and ‘somewhere else’, coming from or going to a location. The installation includes footage shot onboard cargo ships by Atienza, and in some ways echos the life experiences of many Filipinos who work overseas. At a more personal level, the work references the artist’s own family background, based on the maritime industry.
2. Bui Cong Khanh — Dislocate (2013-2015)
Ho Chi Minh City- and Hoi An-based Bui Cong Khanh (b. 1972, Danang, Vietnam) explores his deep fascination with social assumptions about cultural heritage. In the 1990s, he gained recognition for his bold performances that question restrictions on individual expression in a Communist-controlled state. His practice now spans painting, sculpture, installation, video and drawing, and is based on historical research and the merging of craftmanship with the conceptual.
Bui was part of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Brisbane, 2009), and exhibited at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (2013–2015), Arter (Istanbul, 2014) and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery (Hong Kong, 2015).
At SB2016, Bui presents his recent sculptural installation entitled Dislocate (2013-2015), which was shown in his solo exhibition at The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Ho Chi Minh City in Summer 2016. The work was handcrafted by the artist in collaboration with master carpenters and woodcarvers in Hoi An, in a nod to Bui’s own ancestral family background in the woodworking traditions of Fujian, China. The artwork is made entirely of the much prized jackfruit wood, native to South and Southeast Asia, with repurposed elements from a traditional wooden Vietnamese home.
The installation explores the complexities of social and national identity, not only through utilising an age-old tradition of craftmanship from China but also combining it with the cultural identity of Vietnam. Through this juxtaposition of elements, Bui highlights the geo- and socio-political tensions between Vietnam and China. This aspect is visible in the metaphorical representation of the four plinths situated on each of the four sides of the installation, supporting a miniature Buddhist pagoda with cannons, being engulfed by a Chinese bonsai plant. Other decorative elements merge the traditional with the contemporary: there are carvings of a Vietnamese military jacket, a pistol, American GI helmets and missiles, as well as motifs of lotus flowers and dragons within chain-link panels.
3. Ade Darmawan — Singapore Human Resources Institute (2016)
Jakarta-based Ade Darmawan (b. 1974, Jakarta, Indonesia) is an artist and curator, and the director of ruangrupa, an artist-initiated organisation in Jakarta which focuses on visual art and its socio-cultural context, particularly in urban environments. Darmawan works with installations, objects, digital prints, video and public art.
He has participated in international exhibitions as an individual, such as as his recent solo “Magic Centre” (2015) at Portikus in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as part of ruangrupa, such as in the Gwangju Biennale (2002), Istanbul Biennale (2005) and Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Brisbane, 2012). He was appointed Artistic Director of the Jakarta Biennale in 2009 and, since 2013, has been its Executive Director.
Singapore Human Resources Institute (2016) at SB2016 is an installation with paintings, prints, photographs, found objects and furniture, and continues his interest in peripheral histories of capitalism and their relationship with contemporary life. The Singapore Human Resources Institute was established in 1965, the year in which Singapore gained independence. The Institute was founded to play a pivotal role in Singapore’s economic development, by promoting excellence in human resource management and development.
The installation commemorates the Institute’s achievements by bringing together objects found in the Institute’s offices and in homes around Singapore and Indonesia. The work is a “memory-archive”, which reveals minor histories and the significance of their impact on society. Darmawan collects the “detritus of consumerist society” and transforms it into a work highlighting the political, social and economic changes that have shaped both Singapore and the region.
4. Qiu Zhijie — One Has to Wander through All the Outer Worlds to Reach the Innermost Shrine at the End (2016)
Based in Beijing and Hangzhou, Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie (b. 1969, Fujian, China) graduated in printmaking from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now China Academy of Art, Hangzhou) in 1992. His experimental practice merges Chinese literary tradition, contemporary art and social engagement. Qiu is also a professor and a curator; he curated the first video art exhibition in China in 1996 and a series of Post-sense Sensibility exhibitions in 1999 and 2005. In 2012 he was the chief curator of the Shanghai Biennale.
With ink on paper, glass and stone, Qiu has created a map for SB2016, incorporating daily experience with philosophical approaches to graphics, and the organisation of systems of knowledge and relationships. Qiu’s map series is an investigation into cartographic history, linking together history, philosophy, mythology and science.
In One Has to Wander through All the Outer Worlds to Reach the Innermost Shrine at the End (2016), the artist lays bare the two elements of fear and temptation that underlie the connections between the phantom island, Utopia, and monsters. In mythology, early explorers set off in search of distant mysterious lands, only to see their voyages interrupted by the encounter with terrible creatures. In his installation, Qiu includes a bestiary of fantastical monsters made of handblown glass traversing mountains and seas, depicting a mysterious world that may have once existed in reality or imagination.
5. Pannaphan Yodmanee — Aftermath (2016)
Bangkok-based Pannaphan Yodmanee (b. 1988, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand) explores the relevance of Buddhist philosophy in our lives. In her work, she combines raw and natural materials with contemporary found objects, painted designs and motifs of traditional Thai art, and universal themes of loss, suffering, devastation, and the karmic cycles of death and rebirth. She won the Thai Traditional Painting Awards (2013) and the Young Thai Artist Awards (2006–2007). In 2015, she was featured in the “Thailand Eye” exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, London and later at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.
At SB2016, her site-specific installation entitled Aftermath (2016) is made of found objects, artist-made icons, concrete and paint, mapping the Buddhist cosmos which resembles a landscape painting. By merging the traditional and the contemporary, Yodmanee creates a unified cartography that chronicles Southeast Asian history. The artist investigates the points of intersection between Buddhist cosmology and modern science, by exploring the concepts of change, loss, devastation and inevitable armageddon.
According to the artist, mankind’s persistence towards development and progress ultimately exposes our shortcomings, and reveals the presence of a larger universe outside our sphere of control. By calling into play man’s rational thought and man’s created faith, Yodmanee’s ultimate question for humankind is:
at the end of all ends, will we find comfort in our faith?
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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