BEN – the B3 prizes

At B3, key artists from the spheres of art, film, tv, games as well as virtual & augmented reality (VR/AR) present their projects. The very best among them receive the B3 BEN 2017 award.

The B3 Biennale of the Moving Image distinguish- es established artists and talented newcomers by means of the internationally recognized BEN Award. Pieces by B3 Biennale artists who take a particularly innovative ap- proach to exploring new narrative technologies go head to head for the main and newcomer prizes. An international jury selects the best entries. The award was designed by South African artist Trevor Gould.

Succeeding Laurie Anderson (2013) and Brian Eno (2015), this year the Lithuanian-American film pioneer Jonas Mekas (born in 1922) is to receive the B3 Biennale of the Moving Image lifetime achievement award. With this award, the B3 wishes to honor his trailblazing influence on the development of independent American film.

An additional B3 lifetime achievement award goes to German art collector and patron Ingvild Goetz in honor of her decades-long passionate commitment to contempo- rary and video art and her support of young artists.

Media-based art is my great passion. I have been collecting films, videos and video installations by visual artists since the early 1990s. With their combination of sound and moving image, they have a far stronger impact on me than other artistic media.

I started collecting mediabased art relatively early on, because I have always been particularly interested in the artwork of the respective young generation. It is a way of being close to young people, of exploring which themes they address and following their view of our world. And video art is the medium of a young generation.

The first piece I purchased in this field was an unlimited one-channel video by Cheryl Donegan. Yet it was video installations and large multi-channel projections that fascinated me much more. Thus shortly afterwards I acquired pieces by Linda Post, Rosemarie Trockel, Mona Hatoum and Tony Oursler. In the course of almost 25 years the media-based art collection has grown to encompass more than 500 works. Highlights of my collection are the five-part “Cremaster” cycle by Matthew Barney, multi-channel projections by Isaac Julien, Doug Aitken and Julian Rosefeldt, large-scale video installations by Mike Kelley, Hans Op de Beeck and Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, and slide installations by Yayoi Kusama, Giovanni Anselmo, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, and much more besides.

In order to be able to show the continually growing collection of media-based artworks in adequate form, I added a presentation room for videos and film to my mu- seum in 2001. In 2004, I had the former underground store- rooms converted into a dedicated exhibition space for me- dia-based art and fitted out with cutting-edge screening technology. The Base 103 extension almost doubled the exhibition space in our museum.

Media-based art from the Goetz Collection has also been on show in numerous joint exhibition projects, such as the major survey exhibitions “fast forward 1 + 2” at ZKM Museum für Neue Kunst Karlsruhe in 2003 and 2010, and the exhibition “Schichtwechsel” at Nordstern Videokunstzentrum Gelsenkirchen in 2012. Moreover, since 2011 videos and films from the Goetz Collection have been on display in curated shows in the former air-raid shelter at Haus der Kunst that was specially adapted for this cooperation.

In 2013, I decided to gift my museum and a large part of the video art collection to the Free State of Bavaria, giv- en that this field was hitherto underrepresented in pub- lic collections. In addition, I am involved with the Munich festival Kino der Kunst, which took place this year for the third time and included numerous museums, institutions and galleries.

I am delighted that the B3 Biennale wishes to award me the BEN for my commitment in the area of media-based art. I know from experience how important it is that the artists, experts, newcomers and institutions in the area of media art network amongst each other in order to discuss technological, aesthetic and academic developments. The B3 Biennale offers a good platform for such discussion in Frankfurt. I am happy to contribute to the exhibition with a curated film program from my collection and wish the B3 Biennale continued success.

Ingvild Goetz

Jonas Mekas (* 1922, Semeniškiai, Lithuania) ‘accidentally on purpose’ became a prophet, a champion, a master of a language not his own and the perpetrator of a vision.

Raised in a farming village, he was a published poet by age 14. During WWII, he and his brother were en route to the University of Vienna when they were taken to a forced-la- bor camp near Hamburg. After eight months they escaped.

During post-war chaos in Europe, they shifted be- tween various displaced persons camps. Despite hard- ship, they cultivated their enthusiasm for film and pur- sued literary studies in Mainz. In 1949, they emigrated to New York. Before completing their first month in Brooklyn, Jonas had acquired a Bolex 16mm camera. He began to survey his new surroundings, always navigating a perspec- tive balanced between super cool insider and consummate outsider. The rest is history:

In the 1950s he began to share his poetic, personal “documentaries” at avant-garde film venues, while also delving into the emerging experimental film and art scene. As an editor and writer of criticism, prose and poetry, he contributed to various journals and was a columnist for The Village Voice.

His collected critical writings, Movie Journal 1959– 1971, revealed his prescient grasp of the achievements of Kurosawa, Godard, Renoir and Welles. Equally as important was his coverage of highly experimental work. He petitioned for film free from convention and championed underground cinema. In a New Yorker Magazine profile last year, Richard Brody cited a vintage, visionary quote: “Somewhere we have lost touch with our own reality and the camera eye will help us to make contact again.” Mekas was the cinematographer for Andy Warhol’s notorious Empire and taught the pop icon about the allure of no-rules filmmaking. Mekas co-founded Filmmakers’ Cooperative and led the seminal distribution agency. In 1964, he co-founded the pivotal Filmmakers’ Cinematheque. It became legendary for its free-wheeling programming. Even before it opened, Mekas had been arrested twice, for screening Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures on one occasion and on another, for showing Jean Genet’s banned Un Chant d’Amour.

During the 1960s downtown ‘artsplosion,’ Mekas helped morph the Cinematheque into Anthology Film Archives which remains the world’s foremost experimental film screening venue and repository. He is currently involved in expanding the facility to include a research library.

In 2007, the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center was dedicated in Vilnius. Its core holdings include samplings from his art and archive and materials from his friend, George Maciunus of FLUXUS.

Mekas’ work is especially notable for its intimate, “you are there” camera work and his earnest, poetic voice overs. His most celebrated film, Notes on a Journey to Lithuania, 1972, is a feature-length masterwork, broadcast worldwide, shown in museums and festivals, taught at universities and included in the US Library of Congress collection of “most significant” films.

Mekas also wrote I Had Nowhere to Go. Published in 1991 and reprinted this year, the autobiography served as source for a new film by the same title. Artist Douglas Gor- don collaborated on this experimental feature.

B3 salutes Jonas Mekas for keeping the experimental edge of moving image art as vibrant as it is legendary. He pioneered the genre of diary/essay film and remains a great influence and inspiration. Indeed, he is an international living treasure and a godfather of the film-as-art movement.

2015 British musician and multimedia artist Brian Eno received the B3 BEN Lifetime Achievement Award.

The BEN main prizes 2015 in the category “Expanded Senses”:

  • Yves Netzhammer (CH) for “Die Gegenwart sucht ihren Mund in der Spiegelung der Suppe”, 2014
  • Federico Solmi (I) for “Chinese Democracy Trilogy”, 2012/2013
  • John Gerrard (IRL) for “Exercise”, 2014

Prize for Emerging Talent

2013 Laurie Anderson received the B3 Honorary Prize for Lifetime Achievement

BEN main prizes 2013:

  • Linear: Richard Mosse “The Enclave”, 2013
  • Nonlinear: Candice Breitz “Treatment”, 2013
  • Transmedial: The Riahi Brothers “Everyday rebellion”, 2013

BEN Prizes for Emerging Talents 2013:

  • Linear: Laura Labs / Max Kerkoff “Volksbühne” The Film University (HFF) Konrad Wolf, Potsdam-Babelsberg
  • Nonlinear: Philipp Bergmann/Matthias Schönijahn “Breaking News” Justus-Liebig-University Gießen
  • Transmedial: Nikolas Schmid-Pfähler/Carolin Liebl “Vincent&Emily” HfG Offenbach