This year, Sol Calero (born 1982 in Caracas), Iman Issa (born 1979 in Cairo), Jumana Manna (born 1987 in Princeton) and Agnieszka Polska (born in 1985 in Lublin) have been nominated for the Preis der Nationalgalerie 2017 by an international jury. The museum prize is awarded every two years and pays tribute to artists under 40 who live and work in Germany. All four artistic positions, which are presented in a joint exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, are not just engaged in a purely artistic discourse. Producing art spanning several media at once, they rather use their work to reflect social processes.
Jumana Manna makes films and sculptures that explore the ways in which social, political, and interpersonal forms of power interact with the human body. Her films weave together fact and fiction, autobiographical and archival materials, to investigate constructions of national and ideological narratives. The use of personal references is characteristic of her work, like in the exhibited film about musical traditions of the ethnic groups living around Jerusalem.
Similarly, Iman Issa addresses the relevance and the presence of inherited culture. At first, her sculptures from the “Heritage Studies” series appear Minimalist and oriented towards formal issues. However, they are a sculptural and personal appropriation of existing works of art and cultural assets seen through today’s view of the artist. Issa’s sculptures, that each have an additional text, thus resemble their archetypes in a different way than as visual and formal similarities.
We encounter an equally encrypted adaptation of cultural artefacts in the two animation films by Agnieszka Polska. Her references, however, originate neither from the distant past nor from high culture. Rather, her image collage is an encrypted inventory of the present that evokes the collective unconscious called the World Wide Web. Pervaded by an unsettling undertone, the connected films address the state of today’s world and our role and responsibility within it in a poetic and personal manner.
Like Polska, also Sol Calero works with an aesthetic that seems familiar. She is interested in a “Latin American identity” and its cultural codes. In her expansive installations, elements of vernacular architecture, the aesthetics of the tropics and social interaction are combined. Playfulness is connected to a critical approach that clarifies the paradox of “self-exoticization” and focuses on processes of exoticization that transform images and communities into stereotypes.
On 20 October 2017, Agnieszka Polska has been chosen as this year’s prize winner by a second international jury. Members of this jury were: Zdenka Badovinac, director of the Moderna galerija, Ljubljana, Hou Hanru, artistic director of the MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome, Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman for Modern and Contemporary Art of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Sven Beckstette, curator at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, and Udo Kittelmann, director of the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Agnieszka Polska will be honoured next year with a solo exhibition and an accompanying publication. Together with the Preis der Nationalgalerie, this year’s Förderpreis für Filmkunst (award for film art), has been announced on 20 October. It has been awarded in cooperation with the Deutsche Filmakademie (German Film Academy) to Sandra Wollner for her film “Das unmögliche Bild” (“The impossible picture”).