Recommendations and Assessment: Reclaiming “The Prize” as “Recognition”
The Live Art Prize jury: Cassils, Giovanna Esposito Yussif and Adelaide Bannerman
16th September 2023, ANTI Prize Party, Kuopio, Finland
The Chair of the jury Cassils’ speech at the ANTI Prize Party 2023:
I often joke that trans years are like dog years. In the past decade since I won the ANTI Prize for Live Art there has been such an expanse of vernacular, identities, and expressions and at the same time today a wave of internationally organized violence to clamp down on trans bodies. Contrary to popular hysteria, which considers the presence of trans people to be a threat, gender-nonconforming people, especially those who have been racialized, are extremely vulnerable to becoming the victim of attacks. At this time art is vital to the project of working against transphobia, and the recent attempt to ban my images from the public sphere only underlines their necessity. I have gratitude to the ANTI Festival for their support of my work in its more nascent stage. Ten years on things have come full circle and I am honored by the job of chairing the adjudication committee for this year’s prize. This is a duty that I and my colleagues Adelaide Bannerman and Giovanna Esposito Yussif do not take lightly.
The word “anti” which in Finnish means “a gift”, it’s meaning in English stems from the ancient Greek anti-, “against”, as prefix, anti-, means “against” or “opposite”, and is still used in English words, such as antibodies and anti-hero. As members of the jury, we believe and work towards upholding an anti-racist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonial, anti-neo-liberal, anti-fascist art world.
How can we build versus tear down? Rather than be contrary, what is “the gift”, or the seed that we’d like to bestow to ANTI Festival on its ten-year anniversary? Going forward we would like to propose to reimagine the very notion of “a prize” and replace it instead with the concept of “recognition”. Let us all be part of shifting the locus of power away from dominant language and its push towards competition among our peers and instead insist upon the validity and power of each candidate in an act of solidarity. We wish to uplift other forms of aesthetic, performative power and alchemy that exist outside the dominant lenses.
Prizes are culturally accepted as acknowledgement and recognition of the acts that are viewed to be beneficial to the larger purposes of institutions, communities, or fields of practices across the humanities and the arts; so why not a very specific prize for live art of which ANTI Festival, remarkably remains, after 10 years, the only prize dedicated to promoting the work of artist’s critical attentiveness to the conditions of ‘liveness’.
As a community of artists and curators who find our own subjectivities decentralized, silenced and regulated, when going through this adjudication process, we asked ourselves and the ANTI Festival: How can we as a jury provide care to these deserving shortlisted artists, while being real, and offer a truthful and honest list of assessments to the ANTI Festival? We can no longer replicate the same fraught systems which uphold the myth of meritocracy, in an art world marked by scarcity and competitiveness, during a global moment where the right wing is rearing its multiple heads. All the shortlisted artists represented here need our support rather than to be placed in competition with each other.
Given that it’s a 10 year anniversary, we feel it is a good opportunity to suggest a review and pragmatic recommendations for the next ten years that outlines tandem objectives towards the observation and delivery of commitments and care towards artist and ANTI Festival organizational development with the support of stakeholders which we will share with the festival as part of our duties.
As a jury we feel reflection and review are instrumental to understanding what actions need observing to mobilise change. We would like to propose to ANTI Festival and its stakeholders to consider the following:
- To define a precise criteria for the selected artists and for granting this recognition
- Is this an emerging mid-career or senior artist award?
- To clearly articulating the impact that this grant can have at the juncture of an artist carrier
- To define artist support: How can ANTI Festival sustainably support the professional development and standing of the shortlisted recognised artists within the artistic networks of Finland and internationally?
- Does the mission and infrastructure of ANTI Festival require re-tuning to wholly recognise and intellectually attend fully to the multiple contexts that artists are critically working from and responding to?
- How can this organizational learning be embedded and shared also with the local community, that helps prepare their understanding and interactions?
- Can “recognition” be adequately resourced to all shortlisted candidates and for what period might the commitment cover?
- Can this form of “recognition” of live art practice be developed to demonstrate an attuned modifiable model of best practice that can inspire?
- Is there a way to inspire and contribute to debates around the monetary investment and collection of Live Art into museum collections as a way of providing another stream of support to shortlist winners?
As jury members it has been an honor to dive deep into the practices of Autumn Knight, Jota Mombaça, Joshua Serafin and Tiziano Cruz. Over the last days the discussions we have had with the shortlisted candidates have been moving, honest, venerable, full of emotion and passion. We have seen works that are front lined, confrontational, poetic, humorous, sly and scrutinizing. The common threads in artistic practices that we reviewed to be took on such topics such as: moving from the politics of visibility, to the rejection of a legible subjectivity. What does it mean to engage in neoliberal, capitalist systems when one’s subjectivity is trans/brown/indigenous? How have strategies of refusal, rebirth, protection and deconstruction been used to critique the contexts of violence, risk, and institutionalised behaviors?
We recognise the important contributions of each artist, of which we provide a brief summary:
In Knight’s work the structure of a script is allowed to run its course, fail and even risk failure. Knight’s training as a therapist and her understanding of group dynamics combined with her advanced skills in improvisation shift the theater into a real time focus group, offering us a new spatial and intellectual comprehension of the status quo. Within moments of the works commencement, Knight pinpoints and hyper performs the systemic inequities present in the alleged neutral space of a black box theater. She inverts the terms of power and shifts the burden of representation from that of the performer to all present in the room. Her conceptual contribution to the field pushes past the simplistic polemics of identitarian politics by adopting absurdist gestures and razor-sharp comedic timing. Knight has pushed the practice of live art forward – having us sit in uncertainty and question our subjectivities in real time.
Joshua Serafin’s practice exists in transmigrational movements between the Philippines, Europe and North America. Through the prism and spirit that VOID brought to the Festival we witness the artist’s adept manipulation of their body. The work pulls energetically from the core of the earth and emulates the impossibility of separating our deepest pain from our deepest pleasures. Serafin invokes a visceral alchemy, an exorcism on the very space where brown and trans bodies are neo-liberally made visible. The audience’s gaze is ruptured through the use of a primordial slime like material and flashes of light. The residue of the work is literally flung onto the viewer body thereby transforming the audience members into active witness versus passive consumers.
In her heart Jota is a gifted poet. She is informed by the ecology of social, planetary and geo-political formulations of protection and care. An artist and migrant from Brazil, Mombaça’s practice stems from identifying and consulting the ‘wound’ to ask about the conditions and urgencies that a lineage of Latin American political performance for their generation might be concerned about. In an attunement that seeks healing, Jota’s work re-purposely calibrates velocity and temporality, allowing planetary forces and climate crisis which decipher and engage the element of water through a myriad of ways: through crying, sweating, sea level rise, oceans, which rub against land marked by national borders and regulated by imperial forces.
Tiziano’s work accounts to the consequences of the colonial violence in Argentina and its consequences that currently affect indigenous, racialized and marginalised communities through different degrees of invisibilization, discrimination, epistemicides and deterritorializations that at large signal a form of governance that favors disappearance of difference toward whiteness as norm -an operation that takes place, in different degrees, through the Americas and beyond. Tiziano’s work also gives testimony to the resilience of peoples who through micropolitics resist these forms of continuous subjugation, aiming to make worlds where multiplicities can walk in dignity. In Soliloquio (me desperté y golpeé mi cabeza contra la pared), Tizianos’ powerful and poetic oration captures a personal statement to reflect on the local and regional relation and the cultural traditions of his ancestry. He creates a collective and communal work that is not constructed for consumption but for the empowerment and recognition of communities that have been historical disenfranchised “The spectacle is not mine” declares Tiziano. These words are emblematic of a practice that works towards dissolving hierarchy and dominance in service of forming carefully crafted performances which simultaneously archive and revive collective cultural memory.
Each of this year’s candidates stands proud to be nominated and humbled by the idea that their life-affirming contributions are actually being observed and noted, as they’ve been thinking about what it means to have their questions, their perspectives, their critiques internationally validated at this stage of their careers. As jury members we find ourselves in a difficult position of choosing between four potent candidates, each bringing forward courageous practices, invoking their communities, and sharing with us their truths.
We forge this choice around the impact that recognition will gift on an artist carrier at this juncture. The 2023 Live Art Prize goes to Tiziano Cruz.
Finally we want to give appreciation and recognition to the enormous work that is done to make this amazing festival happen: Elisa Itkonen, managing director and lead curator, Sanna Ritvanen, project coordinator, Alli Mattila, communication coordinator, and the rest of the amazing technicians, volunteers and supporters.