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Cardiff prize show isn’t afraid to talk politics

The sixth edition of Artes Mundi includes work by artists responding to recent conflicts

Omer Fast's 2011 video Five Thousand Feet is the Best takes its name from a former US military drone pilot talking about the distance from which he hit targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan

In a move to set itself apart from other contemporary art exhibitions, the sixth edition of Wales’s international art prize, Artes Mundi, is due to include a number of highly-charged works by artists responding to political conflict. The exhibition of finalists for the £40,000 award opens on 24 October at the National Museum Cardiff and other venues in the city.

Among the ten artists on the shortlist for the prize is Omer Fast, an Israeli-born video artist. The show includes his recent film, Continuity, 2012, about an older couple who hire male escorts to play out their dead son’s return from Afghanistan. The 40-minute work explores loss and grief as much as the narrative constructions of fiction and the cinematic conventions used in documentary films, according to the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, where it was shown in 2013.

The London-based duo behind the Museum of Non-Participation, Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, are showing their installation The Unreliable Narrator, 2014, which includes a film recounting the 2008 Mumbai attacks from the perspective of the terrorists and a “seemingly impartial commentator”, according to a press release. “Though not relating to Israel-Palestine conflict directly, the work certainly speaks of the political themes in media at present, the strange tension between an uneasy condemnation and lack of action on the part of America and the UK in relation to the recent increase in violence between the Israeli government and Hamas.”

The Croatian artist and feminist-activist Sanja Iveković will show works from her print series “Gen XX” and “The Disobedients”, and a new work. In “Gen XX”, photos of professional models are overlaid with the names and execution dates for Croatian anti-fascist women fighters from the Second World War. These women were once considered national socialist heroines but have been forgotten in the post-Soviet era, according to MOMA’s website for Iveković’s retrospective there in 2011-12.

The show gives prominence to these explicitly political works in part to distinguish itself from the other major UK art prizes and exhibitions. A representative of Artes Mundi says: “[The prize] offers an international, innovative and socially transformative alternative to more established British arts event, such as the Turner Prize, which the contemporary art world and public have become disenfranchised with in recent years.”

Hired last year, the new director of Artes Mundi, Karen Mackinnon, specialises in socially engaged art practice. “At the centre of Artes Mundi is the belief that art is transformative both on a local and global scale,” she says.

The other shortlisted artists are Carlos Bunga (Portugal), Theaster Gates (US), Ragnar Kjartansson (Iceland), Renata Lucas (Brazil), Renzo Martens (Netherlands) and Sharon Lockhart (US). The winner is due to be announced on 22 January 2015.

Renzo Martens's 2008 film Episode 3 examines poverty in the Congo
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18 Aug 14
17:23 CET


In the last few days the so-called Palestinian Action Group in the UK has been picketing banks,shops,industries and the BBC. Their finest hour was a mob of them attacking tins of Heinz beans in a Birmingham Tesco as part of their protest. Prime Minister Cameron has announced a crackdown on all allies of the Isis/ Islamic Caliphate,Hamas,Boko Haram terrorists. What the enemies of Israel don`t understand is that Israel is situationist. Debord`s `Society of the Spectacle` is studied in their military intelligence colleges (along with other modernist strategists on urbanism and architecture). The battle is between civilisation and barbarism- as the full page ads in the Washington Times,New York Times etc make clear. Israel is enlightenment and its enemies want endarkenment nightmare. Douglas Murray`s articles in the Spectator online expose their `jihad-porn` barbarism. Fortunately Uruguay is not surrounded by enemies and makes advanced national decisions in peace.

18 Aug 14
17:22 CET


Absolutely great to see artists take on hot political issues. Well done Artes Mundi.

15 Aug 14
17:38 CET


It's about time! I have never understood how some artists can ignore what is going in the world. As Dylan wrote, "How many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn't see..."

15 Aug 14
17:38 CET


We'll done Cardiff for including these political conflict exhibits.Brave contribution to culture and understanding.

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