Lawrence Abu Hamdan Scores €25,000 Nam June Paik Award

His installation 'Earshot' rang true for the jury.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Photo courtesy Museum Folkwang.

Beirut-based artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan has won the 2016 Nam June Paik Award for his exhibition “Earshot,” the Museum Folkwang announced last night. The €25,000 ($27,000) prize is awarded every two years to an exceptional artist working in digital or electronic media.

“Earshot,” displayed this year at Portikus in Frankfurt, was the artist’s first solo show in Germany. Using sound and video, Abu Hamdan undertook a ballistic investigation into a 2014 shooting of two teenagers in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers. The installation presents the resulting acoustic analysis, a hybrid of an artwork and a piece of forensic evidence.

“In his installation he has created an open space in which we can focus with precision on his subject, its means of representation and on our own role as viewers. The topic of the representation of violence is of great contemporary relevance, and the artist encourages us to debate key moral issues in a different way,” said the jury of international artists and curators, who unanimously agreed Abu Hamdan should take home the prize.

This year’s shortlist also included artists Trisha Baga, Katja Novitskova, and Neïl Baloufa. All four artists were born in the years 1984 or 1985; according to a statement on the website for the award, the “’digital natives’, […] whether as exponents of such movements as post-Internet art or the so-called New Aesthetic, whether they draw inspiration from the theory of Speculative Realism, one thing is for sure: these young artists, whose work is more exciting than anything we’ve seen in a long time, are totally breaking with modernity.”

But Abu Hamdan’s work stands out among the others, for its grounding in current events, as opposed to pure aesthetics or theory.

The prize is organized by the Kunststiftung NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) in cooperation with institutions in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany—this year, the Museum Folkwang in Essen. It honors digital and video art trailblazer, Korean-American artist Nam June Paik, who lived, studied, worked, and taught in the region throughout his life.

The shortlisted artists’ work now makes up an exhibition at the Museum Folkwang, which runs from October 28, 2016 to January 8, 2017.

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