Winner Eye Prize 2021 | Karrabing Film Collective

The Karrabing Film Collective has been named the winner of the Eye Art & Film Prize 2021. With the Eye Art & Film Prize of £25,000, the artist – in this case the collective - can release new work.

still from Wutharr, Salwater Dreams (Karrabing Film Collective, 2016). Courtesy of the artists.
still from Wutharr, Salwater Dreams (Karrabing Film Collective, 2016). Courtesy of the artists.

“We are delighted to have the Karrabing Film Collective as our seventh winner. Their powerful, grounded films and installations show lightness, freedom and humour as well as the urgency to investigate contemporary social conditions of inequality. Topics such as ancestry and climate change give a different insight into the traditions and practices of the collective’s culture.”

Jury chair Sandra den Hamer, Director of Eye Filmmuseum

Karrabing Film Collective in conversation after screening of their film Wutharr (Sydney Biennale, 2015)
Karrabing Film Collective in conversation after screening of their film Wutharr (Sydney Biennale, 2015)

Founded in 2008 and based in the Northern Territories of Australia, the Karrabing Film Collective is an indigenous media group with approximately thirty members, who see their work as a form of grassroots activism.

According to Cecilia Lewis, Rex Edmunds, and Linda Yarrowin, among the founding members of Karrabing Film Collective, the idea behind Karrabing is: “keeping members' own lands strong by keeping the family, environments and totemic relations that created their lands stronger.”

Karrabing Film Collective, Graffiti Dreaming. Courtesy of the artists.
Karrabing Film Collective, Graffiti Dreaming. Courtesy of the artists.
Karrabing Film Collective, Grafitti Dreaming (2018) & Night Time Go (2017). Installation IMA Brisbane, 2018. © Carl Warner
Karrabing Film Collective, Grafitti Dreaming (2018) & Night Time Go (2017). Installation IMA Brisbane, 2018. © Carl Warner

Improvisational realism

In the Emmiyengal language, the word “karrabing” means “low tide” - referencing a form of collectivity outside of government-imposed strictures of clanship or land ownership. The Karrabing Film Collective have approached their films and installations using a variety of styles; developing local artistic language that represents their lives and their bonds with their land. Based on “improvisational realism” their stories open a space beyond binaries of the fictional and the documentary, the past and the present.

Their works have been screened in institutional, academic and cultural settings worldwide, including Tate Modern (London), Jakarta Biennale (Jakarta), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Gwangju Biennale (Gwangju), Shanghai Biennale (Shanghai), the Sydney Biennale, the Berlinale, and MoMA PS1(New York City). One of their most recent works is titled The Family, a cross-artforms project under development as part of Back to Earth project. The ultimate goal of the project is the creation of a cultural heritage area.

Selected filmography

Wexner Cinetracts (2020), Art Gallery NSW Medium Earth (2020), Dazibao, Reply to "Coney Island Baby" (2020), Day in the Life (2020), The Mermaids of Aiden in Wonder-land (2018), The Jealous One (2018), The Night Time Go (2017), The Jealous One (2017), Windjarrameru, The Stealing C * nt $ (2015) and more.

still from Wutthar, Saltwater Dreams (Karrabing Film Collective, 2016). Courtesy of the artists.
still from Wutthar, Saltwater Dreams (Karrabing Film Collective, 2016). Courtesy of the artists.
still from When The Dogs Talked (Karrabing Film Collective, 2014). Courtesy of the artists.
still from When The Dogs Talked (Karrabing Film Collective, 2014). Courtesy of the artists.

Eye Prize exhibition

The prize – a collaboration between the Dutch Eye Filmmuseum and the Paddy and Joan Leigh Fermor Arts Fund – includes a £25,000 grant to fund the making of new work. In addition, the Eye Filmmuseum will host a winners' exhibition in 2022, featuring the work of the Karrabing Film Collective together with previous years’ winners Meriem Bennani (2019) and Kahlil Joseph (2020).

Jury report

The jury is honoured that the Karrabing Film Collective has accepted to be the seventh winner of the Eye Art & Film Prize. They were impressed by the combination of bold energy and political exploration in the Karrabing Film Collective’s work.

“The rich work of the Karrabing Film Collective brings about a strong emotional connection, although always playful, allowing audiences to understand new forms of collective indigenous agency.”

From the 2021 Eye Art & Film Prize jury report

“Karrabing approaches filmmaking as a mode of self-organization and the jury is impressed by the productiveness of the collective. Over the past decade they have worked consistently and produced an impressive body of work. Their nonlinear narratives are a game changer in subject and form. The ‘improvisational realism’, shot on handheld cameras and phones, satirize the daily scenarios and obstacles that collective members face in their various interactions with corporate and state entities.”

From the 2021 Eye Art & Film Prize jury report