Jusun Lee and Marielena Stark to receive the Kunsthalle Wien Prize 2023

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The Kunsthalle Wien Prize, which is awarded for the ninth time this year, exemplifies Kunsthalle Wien’s longstanding and thriving cooperative relationship with Vienna’s two major art schools. In recent years, the prize has garnered wide recognition as a vital instrument for the promotion of young artists living and working in Vienna; for many prizewinning artists, it has marked a key first step in their careers.

Awarded by a jury to selected graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the Kunsthalle Wien Prize comes with participation in an exhibition and inclusion in the associated publication; one graduate of each school wins the first prize, which comes with an additional cash award of € 3,000.

For this year’s prize, the jury reviewed altogether 114 diploma and master’s projects from the fields of visual and media art – 49 graduates of the Academy and 65 graduates of the University of Applied Art submitted their work for consideration. For the first time in the award’s history, graduates of the Graphic Art and Printmaking as well as Stage Design departments and the interdisciplinary program Art & Science are among the winners.

In light of the high quality and thematic diversity of the submissions, the jury again decided to invite altogether ten graduates to participate in the group exhibition, which will open at Kunsthalle Wien Karlsplatz in the spring of 2023.

Winner of the first prize of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna: Jusun Lee

Jusun Lee won over the jury with the two-part installation Safe Zone and Illusion, which melds a rigorously conceived yet sensual materiality to the study of a subject that is of personal as well as social and political relevance: it invites the visitors into an immersive environment that beckons with safety and comfort while prodding them to reflect on social rejection, safe zones, and self-empowerment. The materials – bioplastic, latex, and metal – are bathed in luscious light and color and coalesce in a singular visual idiom.

Jusun Lee (born in 1992, lives in Vienna and Seoul) studied Sculpture and Installation with Nora Schultz, diploma in June 2023.

Further prizewinners of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna: Željka Aleksić, Michael Amadeus Reindel, Anne Schmidt, and Marc Truckenbrodt

Željka Aleksić

What is the price of becoming an artist? Željka Aleksić asks in her thesis work titled Das Kapital [Capital], which points up the economic conditions required for the privilege of studying art in Vienna when you are the daughter of a working-class family from a so-called third country. Like all of Aleksić’s works, the thesis project, which encompasses a studio diary with documentary photographs and a series of acrylic paintings, is based on personal lived experience and speaks to her flair for social critique and personal irony. The realism of her upbringing resonates in her art as she perceptively grapples with the threshold and tension between her roles as artist and worker in creations that deftly challenge the beholder.

Michael Amadeus Reindel

In Fulfillment Center, Michael Amadeus Reindel has forged a humorous, sophisticated, and astute conjunction of the personal with a profoundly political perspective on the excesses of unbridled global consumerism and the scenes of contemporary precarious labor, here represented by a corporate behemoth: Amazon. Combining his sculptural practice with painstaking research and direct involvement in the form of a one-week stint at the Amazon fulfillment center near his parents’ home, Reindel expertly maneuvers the viewers between his family, reflections on his own work as an artist, and critical observations of society.

Anne Schmidt

Anne Schmidt’s protean œuvre culminates in her thesis installation Strahlte. Geschöpf. Champagner. zottig. Klumpen [Radiated. Creature. Champagne. ragged. Lump], which stars giant ice-cream-cone sculptures, a chainsawed “procrastination pig,” the autofictional novel Me after Two Anal Orgasms, and tennis balls as well as the artist herself. Schmidt’s precise and vigorous engagement with normative images of desire in capitalist consumer society and probing creative scrutiny of institutional logics reflects her background as both an activist and a scholar of culture.

Marc Truckenbrodt

Marc Truckenbrodt’s graphic art typically engages with his immediate surroundings; his observations and reflections often inspire narratives and comic strips without words that blend a compelling light touch with profound insights. For Behauptung [Assertion], his thesis project, which Truckenbrodt executed in colored ink on paper, he chose to grapple with the subject of power, including its contradictions, necessities, and dangers, and selected a comparatively large format: the beholders encounter five larger-than-life figures whose stature and demeanor at first blush suggest superheroes – closer inspection, however, reveals details through which the artist has endowed his characters with a productive ambivalence.

Winner of the first prize of the University of Applied Arts Vienna: Marielena Stark

Marielena Stark wins the first prize of the University of Applied Arts for her installation Afterlifestyle. Fabrics dyed with indigo and walnuts transform basketballs that seem to hover in the gallery into ghosts – spheres of light, as the artist puts it. The imagined movements of the ballgame, the balls’ trajectories, the air drag, and the force of gravity that pulls them downward find their match in the motions of the colors seeping into the fabric in the process of dyeing.

Marielena Stark (born in 1986, lives in Vienna) studied Painting with Henning Bohl, diploma in June 2023.

Further prizewinners of the University of Applied Arts Vienna: Mila Balzhieva, Luisa Berghammer, Daniel Fonatti, and Valentin Hämmerle

Mila Balzhieva

Mila Balzhieva’s three-part installation Roots and Spirits: Presentation, Representation, and Vision proposes an original contribution to the dialogue across boundaries of species. The act of establishing contact with an indoor plant takes three different forms that are designed to lure us beyond the familiar and challenge us. Magic and research, in this perspective, cease to appear as antagonists and instead become thinkable and visible in their entanglements.

Luisa Berghammer

Final credits to conclude her years at the university: Luisa Berghammer’s video installation *captain screeching* reflects on collective processes and the individual’s position within them. A soccer film that does not exist, the character of a goalkeeper or team captain who is actually more than one person: the installation shrewdly intertwines questions of authorship with an opening toward an expanded conception of scenery inspired in part by Berghammer’s double degree in stage design as well as sculpture and space and the resulting dynamic tensions and contrasts.

Daniel Fonatti

In his installation The ground was there to meet the feet, Daniel Fonatti gestures toward ruins of modernism – specifically, the gutted skeleton of a water slide rotting away on a beach in Sicily. Demonstrating a delicate sense for the exhibition space and the discourses around those ruins that the proverbial society of the spectacle leaves to future generations, Fonatti has charted a poetic approach to a distinctly political concern.

Valentin Hämmerle

Conceived for atrium B of the Ferstel wing of the University of Applied Arts, Valentin Hämmerle’s site-specific installation LIGHT YELLOW GAZE 9201-104 *** presents a compelling combination of acute awareness of the principles of stage design and evident pleasure in transgressing them and opening the practice up toward other art forms. Critical reflection on the basic tenets of his discipline leads Hämmerle to turn to other forms and languages such as those of sculptural and installation design, but without losing his flair for space in relation to bodies in motion.