Meriem Bennani, Kahlil Joseph, Karrabing Film Collective
Eye Art & Film Prize
11 June — 18 September 2022
What is notable about the work of the three winning artists is their committed engagement with the world and the way they effortlessly cross the boundaries between cinema, documentary and visual art.
In this exhibition, Eye presents the work of three recent winners of the Eye Art & Film Prize: Meriem Bennani (2019), Kahlil Joseph (2020) and the Karrabing Film Collective (2021). The prize is awarded to makers who bring together art and film in an innovative, inspiring and highly artistic way.
Meriem Bennani won the prize in 2019 with her refreshing, somewhat disruptive and innovative films and installations. Born in Rabat in 1988, she succeeds in playfully exploring contemporary subjects – and taboos – in the areas of gender, identity, migration and biotechnology in films where 3D animation lends the world a surrealistic touch. She questions traditional forms of film and documentary, provoking discussion about sensitive subjects such as hijabs, neo-colonialism and refugees. Bennani’s world is populated by a motley cast of talking crocodiles, lizards, donkeys and other characters.
Her work is a representation of North African culture, in which she challenges viewers to reconsider their assumptions, viewing habits and cultural-political orientation. Using video mapping to project films onto all sorts of surfaces and objects in space-filling installations, she immerses visitors in a brightly coloured, overwhelming flow of images and sounds.
In 2020 the Eye Art & Film Prize went to Kahlil Joseph, whose work is located at the intersection of cinema, visual art, pop music and cultural criticism. Born in Seattle in 1981, he rose to fame with his pioneering video clips for musicians such as Kendrick Lamar, FKA twigs and Beyoncé. He has since widened his scope to include large-scale video installations in which he explores and celebrates Black culture in the United States.
With his work he criticizes stereotypes and unravels the power structures of mainstream media. In addition, he shuns clichés and provides a platform for images rarely seen. He conveys his political commentary with a refined visual style, a vibrant mixture of fiction and reality, sound and image.
Karrabing Film Collective
The most recent winner (2021) is the Karrabing Film Collective, which consists of a group of indigenous inhabitants of the Northern Territories in Australia. Together they make films that tell stories about their lives, in which they are confronted every day by the destructive effects of colonialism: social inequality, poverty, cultural loss and pollution.
Despair is not the central concern, however. In fact, their works are filled with humour, lightness and spontaneity. In their films they offer a new perspective on indigenous life from within. They are not the inferior Other from the colonial media, nor are they a romantic, primitive people or powerless victim. The collective uses film to repair and strengthen the connection between themselves, their homeland and their ancestors – that is how they sustain their culture. Moreover, they work without hierarchies, scripts or scenarios.
By deploying the power of cinema to criticize colonial power structures, the Karrabing Film Collective regains ownership of its past and future – a form of activism.
On the Eye Art & Film Prize
Each year Eye awards the Eye Art & Film Prize to an artist or filmmaker who makes an important contribution to the intersection of film and visual art. The prize was established in 2015 by Eye and the Paddy and Joan Leigh Fermor Arts Fund. The winner can use the annual prize of 25,000 British pounds to create new work.
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