PRIX ARS ELECTRONICA 2017 / GOLDEN NICA award
In her opus ‘K-9_topology’ – in which she addressed the parallel evolution of mankind and dogs as well as the various cultural points the two share – Maja Smrekar created the conditions for contemplating a society that would be based on a more balanced coexistence of man and the ecosystem surrounding him. In a series of projects executed over the past four years Maja contemplated the relation between mankind and the non-human other. She confronted us with a dystrophic projection of the future inhabited with a progressive biotechnological hybrid species with a social status en par to humans. The thesis that we follow through the entire opus is fuelled by biotechnological facts as well as thoughts on the hybridism of humans and animals which is fuelled by mythological stories that are deeply embedded in the subconscious of the Western culture.
Based on the theory of the parallel development of the serotonin receptor in human and dog brains, the exhibition ‘Ecce Canis’ (the first project within the ‘K-9_topology’ opus) enabled a direct smelling experience of serotonin (the hormone that is of key importance for the non-verbal communication between the two species) extracted from the blood of the artist and her dog. The artistic research of the possible co-existence of humans and dogs was expanded with the performance ‘I Hunt Nature, Culture Hunts Me’, in which – after a few weeks residency in the Jacana Wildlife Studios in France – Maja confronted a pack of wolves and tried to find her space within it. In the third part of the project, ‘Hybrid family’, the artist radicalized the social and ideological instrumentalization of motherhood through a strongly ideologised status of breastfeeding. In her hybrid family, that she formed together with Byron, a Scottish Border Collie, and Ada who was at the time a young Icelandic Spitz, she unscrupulously surrendered to the ideology of motherhood by becoming the ‘m-Other’. In her latest project entitled‘ARTE_mis’, the artist addressed the thoughts on the biotechnological potentials of merging humans with non-human others. The central part of the project is represented by a hybrid cell created from a human and a dog, set in a gallery space as an artefact, but also as a potential for life, which would – in contrast to mankind, an outdated species doomed to self-destruction – have a better chance of survival in the dystrophic conditions of overpopulation.
‘K-9_topology’ is a true hybrid work of art with a deep bio-political message that opens new possibilities for the ethical reconsideration of the biotechnologically designed life forms.
We would like to thank all expert co-workers, partners (Bandits-Mages, Freies Museum Berlin), sponsors (Kambič Laboratorijska oprema, Iskra Pio, Domel) and supporters, especially the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the City Municipality of Ljubljana – Department of Culture, who recognized the importance of the work and supported the endeavours of the artist and the producers throughout all of the phases of creating this complex artistic opus. There is a list of all participants who selflessly aided the ‘K-9_topology’ opus at the end of this notice.
Over its 38 years of existence Festival Ars Electronica, the biggest festival of art, technology and society, has presented the most important projects in the field of contemporary research art. Prix Ars Electronica, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, is an award handed out at the Festival Ars Electronica in Linz for the fields of Hybrid Art, Digital Music & Sound Art, Interactive Art +, Digital Communities, Computer Animation / Film / VFX and youth ideas (u19-Create Your World). This year the expert committees received 3.677 applications from 106 countries, all applying for the award in their respective field.
Production: Kapelica Gallery / Kersnikova Institute, Praksa Institute
Coproduction: Bandits Mages Rencontres, Freies Museum Berlin
Supporters: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, Department of Culture of the Municipality of Ljubljana, European Comission – FP7 (KiiCS) and Horizon 2020 (DITOs), CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée
Sponsors: Kambič Laboratory Equipment, Iskra Pio, Domel
Expert collaborators: Andrej Strehovec, Marko Žavbi, Institute of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana (Alja Videtič Paska, Tilen Konte), Department of Forestry, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana (Miha Krofel), Mia Zahariaš, Manca Kemperl, Lojze Jazbinšek, Ewen Chardronnet, Isabel Carlier, Marta Jonville, Jacana Wild Life Studios (Jean-Philippe Varin, Véronique Gérault, Christophe Gaudry, David Legrand, Ophélie Soulier), Jens Hauser, Manuel Vason, Primož Debevec, Gia Gruden, Marianne Wagner, Darius Bork, Gjino Šutić, Kristijan Tkalec | Curator: Jurij Krpan | Production: Sandra Sajovic, Jana Putrle Srdić, Petra Milič, Simon Gmajner, Katarina Hergouth | Light design and technical support: Jure Sajovic, Boris Britovšek, Miloš Vujković, Scenart | Video documentation and sound production: Philippe Zunino, Paola Pisani, Saška Rakef, Urban Belina, Brane Zorman |Photo: Borut Peterlin, Miha Fras, Sunčan Stone, Amar Belmabrouk, Hana Jošić, Anže Sekelj | Graphic design: HUMAN1ST |Acknowledgment: Ada in Byron
ARS ELECTRONICA website article : https://www.aec.at/prix/en/gewinner/
Bandits-Mages 2014 / Maja Smrekar – Ecce Canis / preparation performance @ Jacana Wild Life Studios from Bandits-Mages on Vimeo.
I hunt nature, and culture hunts me (2014) was producted at Bandits-Mages during Les Rencontres Bandits-Mages 2014 with the support of CNC-Dicréam. This residency focused on phylogenetics of the wolf, wolf-human-dog relations and animal ethics and was executed at JACANA Wildlife Studios in collaboration with wolves and wolf-dog hybrids (Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs) under the coaching of Jean-Philippe Varin (JACANA Wild Life Studios) as well as wolf trainers. As the product of the residency, a performance was executed, articulated within the context of interspecies communication theories of Donna Harraway and Giorgio Agamben based on the emotional economy phenomenology explored by Maja Smrekar who justaposed her work to Joseph Beuys and Oleg Kulik.
Making-of / Preparations for the performance I hunt nature and culture hunts me
Maja Smrekar – I Hunt Nature and Culture Hunts Me – Rencontres Bandits-Mages 2014 from Bandits-Mages on Vimeo.
performance I hunt nature and culture hunts me during the Rencontres Bandits-Mages 2014
Produced by: Rencontres Bandits-Mages (Bourges, FR) // Co-produced by: Kapelica Gallery / Kersnikova Institute (Ljubljana, SI) // Supported by: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, Municipality of Ljubljana – Department for Culture // Production team: Ewen Chardronnet (FR), Isabel Carlier (FR), Marta Jonville (FR) // Expert collaborators: JACANA Wild Life Studios (Jean-Philippe Varin (FR), Véronique Gérault (FR), Christophe Gaudry (FR)), David Legrand (FR), Ophélie Soulier (FR) // Video: Philippe Zunino (FR), Paola Pisani (IT) // Photo: Amar Belmabrouk (FR)