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Apr 01 2021

Indigenous Australian Collective wins EYE Art & Film Prize

by Yuna Lee

Pictured: some members of the KARRABING FILM COLLECTIVE, which has won the 7th EYE Art & Film Prize. Image via Facebook.

On April 1, the Indigenous Australian media group Karrabing Film Collective was conferred the 7th EYE Art & Film Prize by Amsterdam-based the Eye Filmmuseum and the Paddy and Joan Leigh Fermor (PJLF) Arts Fund, which annually recognizes artists whose practice has contributed to the melding of film and visual arts. The group was awarded GBP 25,000 (USD 34,780) for the creation of new works to be exhibited at Eye Filmmuseum at the end of 2022.

The collective, which comprises more than 30 artists and filmmakers, won for its satirical and critical interrogation of contemporary social and political issues faced by Aboriginal people in Australia’s Northern Territory, which the jury praised as a way “to understand new forms of collective indigenous agency.” The group’s short films adopt experimental styles of improvisational realism using iPhones or handheld cameras, weaving reality with alternative histories, speculative sci-fi futures, and Aboriginal narratives from different family-clans and languages. The works often explore the insidious everyday interventions the collective’s communities face from the country’s government, corporate, and industrial interests, acting as a form of grassroot resistance against these pressures. 

Cofounded in 2008 by Cecilia Lewis, Rex Edmunds, Linda Yarrowin, and others as a retaliation against tightening state control, most members of the collective stem from the Belyuen community in Darwin. Also included is anthropologist, activist, and New York’s Columbia University gender studies professor Elizabeth A. Povinelli, who has worked with the community since 1984. In the Emmiyengal language, karrabing refers to “low tide” or “tide out,” invoking the northwestern coastline of the members’ homelands while also alluding to the fluidity of their practice.

The jury of this year’s EYE Art & Film Prize includes artist and film director Apichatpong Weerasethakul; artist Aernout Mik; artistic director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst, Andrew Lissoni; director and curator of São Paulo’s Associação Cultural Videobrasil, Solange Farkas; curator and trustee of PJLF Arts Fund, Olivia Stewart; and director of EYE Filmmuseum, Sandra den Hamer. 

Karrabing Film Collective’s works have been widely exhibited at major international institutions including, among others, Tate Modern in London, Museum of Modern Art PS1 in New York, and Centre Pompidou in Paris. The group is currently participating in the 13th Gwangju Biennale, which opened today.

Yuna Lee is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific

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