Seven finalists of Artes Mundi 5 revealed at Cardiff's National Museum of Art

By Ruth Hazard | 02 July 2012
Sheela Gowda, Of All People (2011). Installation view© Thierry Bal
Exhibition: Artes Mundi 5, Wales’ National Museum of Art, Cardiff, October 6 2012 - January 13 2013

To be eligible for the prestigious contemporary art prize awarded by Artes Mundi, nominees must be judged to "engage with social reality, lived experience and the human condition".

If you like your art to offer something more than mere visual stimulation, it's worth absorbing this exhibition in Cardiff, showing off works by the seven finalists.

With £40,000 on offer, this is the largest cash prize awarded for art in the UK. The calibre of entries is high, not least because nominations are decided on bodies of work spanning between five and eight years.

Each artist will exhibit at least one major work. Some projects have been produced especially for the exhibition.

This year, for the first time, visitors are able to vote in the people’s choice poll for their favourite artist and exhibition pieces, providing an intriguing opportunity to see if their conclusions match up with those of the judging panel.

Here, in brief, is what to expect from the seven finalists:

Tania Bruguera (Cuba)

Tania Bruguera, Tatlin's Whispers #5, 2008, Decontextualization of an action Mounted police, crowd control techniques, audience

© Sheila Burnett, Courtesy Tate Modern
Bruguera may be remembered by British audiences for her performance project at Tate Modern, where riot police on horses used crowd control techniques to move audiences around the space.

Expect more of the same from the interdisciplinary artist, who uses installation, social intervention and performance to explore the role that art can play in daily political life. Her latest project tackles the immigrant movement in New York.

Phil Collins (England)

Homegrown artist Phil Collins explores social relations in a range of locations and global communities through film, installation and live events.

His contribution to the Turner Prize exhibition in 2006 involved creating a fully functioning studio in the galleries at Tate Britain, where he produced Return of the Real – a documentary about people whose lives were ruined by reality TV shows.

Sheela Gowda (India)

Gowda originally trained as a painter but turned to sculptural practice as it enabled her to focus on materials - particularly the way their production and distribution leads to the exploitation of Indian people for economic gain.

Perhaps not one for the squeamish, her previous Sculptural piece, Behold, used ropes constructed out of human hair shaved from the heads of Southern Indian women during a ritual offering at Tirupati’s temples.

Darius Mikšys (Lithuania)

If you don’t like the idea of audience participation, Mikšys’ work is most likely not for you.The artist lets visitors take a leading role, seeking to bring people together to create performances and share experiences.

For his first solo exhibition he invited all Lithuanian artists who had received European grants to submit work for his project and allowed visitors to select the pieces they wanted to see, enabling them to curate their own displays.

What Else Could We Talk About, Cleaning (2009). Cleaning of the exhibition floors with a mixture of water and blood from murdered people in Mexico© Teresa Margolles
Teresa Margolles (Mexico)

Graduating with a diploma in forensic medicine, Margolles could have embarked on an entirely different career. But her experience imbued her with a desire to start an examination into the economics of death, with an emphasis on the Northern Mexican social experience where drug-related crime has led to widespread violence and murder.

However, you might want to watch where you tread if previous displays are anything to go by – during the 2009 Venice Biennale she created an artistic intervention in which the floor of the Mexican pavilion was mopped with water which had been used to wash dead bodies at a morgue back in her home country.

Miriam Bäckström (Sweden)

The conceptual artist uses her work to explore the way stories are told, looking at the processes of creating and recreating memory using photography, text, theatre and video.

She has previously drawn audiences into sound installations, such as the Amplified Pavilion, where external sounds were transmitted inside the space to look at the experience of presence.

Apolonija Šušteršič (Slovenia)

Experience art from the perspective of an architect at a Šušteršič display, where the focus is on the social and political nature of living environments.

On being commissioned to create a public art work for a housing estate in Bochum, Germany, Šušteršič decided to undertake a study of the diverse local community through a series of workshops. These inspired her to create a community pavilion for the estate, as well as an outdoor kitchen, local cinema and information centre.

The winner will be announced in September, with a prize giving ceremony to be held on November 29 2012 at the Museum.
  • Open 10am-5pm (closed Monday). Admission free.
More pictures:

Soy mi Madre (2008). 16mm film transferred to video, colour, sound, 28 min, Spanish with English subtitles© Phil Collins Courtesy Shady Lane Productions
The Opposite of Me Is I (2011), depicting actor Börje Ahlstedt as Pierrot© Miriam Bäckström
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