The jury of the Pax Art Awards honours Monica Studer (1960 in Zurich) and Christoph van den Berg (1962 in Basel) for their broad oeuvre of the last decades, which has always been distinguished by the unique use of digital tools. Using game engines, computer renderings, digital real-time environments, internet-based spaces, interactive installations, VR applications and artificial intelligence, the artists design, create and construct mixed-media setups for digital utopias. These scenarios enable the spectator to enter unusually featured virtual environments, inviting them to find themselves in these hybrid spaces.
Studer / van den Berg explore the digital as a new aesthetic for environmental and spatial delight, using the possibilities of these technologies to explore the limits of the digital experience and how they are conveyed in today’s culture. Their digital canvases are striking for the typified forms of simple or amorphous nature. An undercurrent of artificiality illustrates the fantasies spawned by technical breakthroughs, whose cultural interpretations have yet to be defined. Throughout their career Studer and van den Berg seem to always question the fact that we no longer live in the «real» physical world, and that there is a pervasive sense that the digital has taken over, harnessing the influence of computing and network technologies that have transformed our lives. Furthermore, through their work they enquire as to how far technology can go into the representation of the real, or wether nature can manifest itself through the unreal touch of technology.
In their installations of the Passage Park series (2014 – 2017), a body of work comprising several interactive scenes, objects of various kinds are selected as if from a stockpile and placed randomly in the scenes to reveal a bizarre and unusual atmosphere to the users. Throughout their artistic work, Studer / van den Berg seem to constantly question the possibility that we no longer live in the “real” physical world and that there is a pervasive sense that the digital domain has taken over, harnessing the influence of computer and network technologies that have transformed our lives. Their work also asks how far technology can enter into the representation of the real, or whether nature can manifest itself in an unreal connection with technology.
Tokyo Wonder Site Residency 2013 | Landis & Gyr Studio London 2004 | Swiss Art Awards 2000 | Atelier Mondial Helsinki 1998 | Cité Internationale des Arts 1997 | Artist grant City of Basel 1997 and 1993 | Alexander Clavel Foundation Prize 1995 | Artist grant Canton of Lucerne 1993
2019 Biennale Karachi | ZKM Karlsruhe | MMOMA Moscow | Fondation Beyeler, Riehen | Kunsthalle Mainz | S.M.A.K. Gent | NEoN Digital Arts Festival, Dundee | Kunstmuseum Thun | MARTa Herford | Edith-Russ-Haus, Oldenburg | Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg | Frac Alsace, Sélestat | Kunsthaus Zürich | Viper Basel | Kunstmuseum Solothurn | BALTIC, Gateshead | 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa | Swiss Pavilion, World Exposition 2005, Aichi | Jiff Mind Festival, Jeonju | Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau | Centre culturel suisse, Paris | Kunstverein Hannover | Villa Merkel, Esslingen am Neckar | Arteplage Murten, Expo.02 | Kunsthaus Baselland, Muttenz | Steirischer Herbst, Graz | Kleines Helmhaus, Zurich | Centre d’Art Contemporain, Genf
The Pax Art Awards jury is pleased to award Maria Guta (1983 in Rumania) with one of two Pax Art Awards for an upcoming voice in media arts in Switzerland. Guta’s work is centred around mechanisms of self-representation. She places herself both behind and in front of the camera, perpetually constructing and curating alternate cyber identities. Her video work Commercial Break (2020) is a commercial of a fictitious company that offers identity alternatives for exclusive customers. Everything is possible here: teleportation, body optimization, extended brain capacity. Her work humorously refers to the constant pressure of personal staging and self-representation in the social media of our contemporary digital society. We are both the actors in and directors of our own cyber identities.
In her works, Guta explores the possibilities and boundaries of photography, performance, installation, social media and immersive digital tools. Guta is well versed in the world of VR, having previously been curator of the annual summit of the World VR Forum in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. One of their recent interactive and immersive virtual reality (VR) installations. Interlooped (2019), was screened at Sundance Film Festival and Locarno Film Festival last year. It is a multi-user live VR experience where users can interact in real time with the performance artist’s body. Holograms of both bodies are transmitted live into the virtual space and multiplied until it is difficult for attendees to tell which person is real. Guta is well versed in the world of VR, having previously curated the annual summit of the World VR Forum in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.
With subtle humour and a precise insight into the mechanisms of self-representation, she creates situations in which the concept of identity can be explored.
New Frontier, Sundance Film Festival, Park City | Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF), Geneva | Backslash Festival, Zürich | Shape Platform (Scena 9), Bucharest | World VR Forum, Crans Montana
Locarno Film Festival | Swissnex, San Francisco | Scena 9, Bucharest | LAC Local d’Art Contemporain, Vevey | Istituto Svizzero, Milan | SomoS Art House, Berlin | Arsenic – Centre d’art scénique contemporain, Lausanne | Porny Days, Film Kunst Festival, Zürich | Réunion (ECAL), Zurich | Nicolas G. Hayek Center, Tokyo
Simone C Niquille
The jury of the Pax Art Awards 2020 is pleased to award the prize for emerging talents in media art to the Swiss artist Simone C Niquille (1987 in Zug). Her work unfolds like a playfully critical investigation into the digital tools which increasingly shape our physical world and the assumptions, prejudice and other abstractions feeding into the datasets which allow these tools to function. Her work Homeschool (2019) is an animation based on the investigation of synthetic training data sets for indoor computer vision. Safety Measures (2018) examines the history and future of ergonomic software and standardized human mass. This work was commissioned for the 16th Architecture Biennale in Venice.
In several long-term projects, which are both profound research initiatives and bold, aesthetic experiments, Niquille investigates, as she puts it, “the digitalization of biomass” – that is, the increasing influence of the digital on our spatial being and our physical self. She defines domestic space as the frontline of this uncertain tussle, and consequently explores it through uncanny visual and filmic proposals which craftily retro-engineer computer vision to reveal the inevitably limited assumptions that allow it to see, shape, and act in our living spaces. The artist draws on her deep-rooted knowledge of the various strands and historical layers of popular visual culture that have shaped our images of domestic space, making it often difficult for viewers to distinguish representation from reality.
With a touch of slapstick, as well as sleek design, architectural advertising materials, and dry yet informative, scientific and technical video documentaries, Niquille adds an extra bite to her work, which is one of the most profound explorations of the impact of digital tools on our lives today.
Housing The Human, Project Grant | E-Culture Grant 2018 and Talentontwikkeling 2016 / 17, Stimuleringsfonds Creative Industrie | Research Fellowship, Het Nieuwe Instituut | Fast Co Design Innovation Awards, «Experience» Category Finalist, RAM House 2015 | ICON Eye, Top Installations, Salone del Mobile 2015, RAM House | Het Nieuwe Instituut Hot100, Top e-culture graduates 2013
Tetem, Enschede | Dutch Pavillion, 16th Venice Architecture Biennale | La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris | Swissnex San Francisco | Istanbul Design Biennale 2018 | IMPAKT Festival, Utrecht | AND Festival, Peak District | TodaysArt, Den Haag | Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam | ByDesign Film Festival, Seattle | Biennale of Urbanism & Architecture 2015, Shenzhen | Design Miami Basel