Azra Akšamija is the 2018 recipient of the Art Prize of the City of Graz. This prize has been awarded every two years since 1986 to an artist in appreciation and recognition of their artistic achievements in the field of visual arts, and is endowed with EUR 14,500 (USD $18,000).
Inspired by the legacy of the avant-garde movements, including Russian Constructivism, Situationism, Happenings, Fluxus, as well as by critical post-studio practices, Conceptualism, and institutional critique, Akšamija’s work intersects with design, architecture, urbanism, media, curation, and other aesthetic practices in public space concerned with political expression, engaged citizenship, and shared experiences. Her work contributes to the evolving discourse of socially engaged art.
Since being on faculty at ACT, Akšamija has turned to probing what constitutes the notions of the “local,” “homeland,” and “tradition” in light of the recent rise of populism and fascism in Europe and the United States, through projects such as Wanderjahre (2014) and the Diaspora Scroll (2018).
In describing her practice, Akšamija says:
I am an artist practicing in the public sphere. My art asks how alienation could be turned into empowerment. I work with textiles, photography, design, animation, and writing. Rooted in the history and theory of art and architecture, my artistic practice and academic research explore how social life is affected by cultural bias and by deterioration and destruction of cultural infrastructures within the context of conflict, migration, and forced displacement. My aim is to imagine ameliorative and transformative gestures and utopian programs. Building on the rich legacy of art concerned with the production of social relations under nationalism and capitalism, my work stands out for its subjects, its research-driven methodology, and the assertion of the art object as a mediator between social and aesthetic critiques. I seek to enhance knowledge and raise critical awareness of the conditions, causes, and consequences of social alienation to both inform the field and impact society.
The Art Prize of the City of Graz is not advertised through an open call; rather, it is chosen by a jury comprised of internationally established Austrian artists, curators, and institutional leaders. The jurors, who deal with the respective art genres very sustainably, nominate candidates and then agree on the candidate in jury sessions.
The award jury consists of three jury members as well as last year’s art prize winner. 2018 jury members were:
Maga Kathrin Bucher-Trantow, Chief Curator of the Kunsthaus Graz
Mag. Günther Holler-Schuster, Austrian artist and Curator at the Neue Galerie Graz
Mag. Thomas D. Trummer, Director of the Kunsthaus Bregenz
Wolfgang Buchner, the 2016 Winner of The Art Prize of the City of Graz