Exile Visual Arts Award
Exile Visual Arts Award 2023 goes to Farkhondeh Shahroudi
The Exile Visual Arts Award honours works by artists who visualise essential questions in exile such as identity, belonging or foreignness. The Exile Visual Arts Award is an initiative of Körber-Stiftung, supported by Stiftung Exilmuseum Berlin.
The Exile Visual Arts Award 2023, endowed with 10,000 euros, goes to the Iranian artist Farkhondeh Shahroudi for the works “Sky is no one’s ground” and “Max Beckmann was not here”. The award ceremony took place on 8 September 2023 as part of the opening of the Days of Exile at the Berlin Academy of Arts.
About the award winner and her works
Farkhondeh Shahroudi has lived in exile in Germany since 1990. A large part of her work reflects her artistic engagement with revolution, war and flight. This also applies to her two prize-winning works, which are presented by the jury as follows:
The work “Sky is no one’s ground” (2019) consists of a flag with appliqués and embroidery on velvet. As part of a performance, the artist uses her own body as part of the artwork on a plinth and waves the flag for several minutes. In doing so, she harks back to her own time as an activist in Iran in the 1970s. The performance is reminiscent of traditional Shiite rituals as well as modern revolutionary forms of protest. By applying a poem to the flag and embroidering it, Shahroudi turns it into an “anti-flag” – a poetic, de-territorialised banner that describes the experiences of flight and exile.
The work “Max Beckmann wasn’t here” (2019) has a similar materiality: the title of the work is written in large lettering on a banner – a reference to the German artist Max Beckmann, who fled into exile in 1937. In 2017, Shahroudi spent time at the Villa Romana in Florence on a scholarship and, while researching previous artists, discovered that Max Beckmann had also worked in this studio. She shared with him the experience of living in exile, and so began an imaginary pen friendship with Beckmann. This led to an extensive series of drawings and the velvet banner bearing the first sentence of this dialogue with – as Shahroudi puts it – her “doppelganger”: “Max Beckmann was not here”.
The jury statement
The jury praised the high complexity of Shahroudi’s works: “With the link between the poetically over-formed flag and the expansive performance, the artist gives strong expression to her own experiences of exile in ‘Sky is no one’s ground’. It symbolises rootedness and connection as well as detachment and disruption. Her work ‘Max Beckmann was not here’, with its banner from the Shiite tradition, also represents a multi-layered connection between continuity, flight and exile – both historical and contemporary. Those who were expelled cannot be here – and yet they are through their immortalisation in art.”
The shortlist of the Exile Visual Arts Award
Of the 81 impressive submissions, the jury documented the TOP 5 on a shortlist. In addition to the award winner, other works by artists besides the award winner are highlighted: Rawan Almukhtar from Iraq, Khaled Barakeh from Syria, Parastou Forouhar from Iran and an anonymous Iranian artist.
Rawan Almukhtar (*1991, Iraq) is a visual artist and activist. In Almukhtar’s works, the boundaries between artistic and activist interventions are often very fine or merge seamlessly.
In the large-format oil painting “Untitled” (2023), Rawan Almukhtar captures a fleeting moment that inscribes itself deeper and deeper like a haunting. The fluid visual language creates an emotional landscape of encounter and loss in which the experiences of flight and transformation are impressively conveyed.
Khaled Barakeh (*1976, Damascus/Syria) is a conceptual artist, cultural activist and creative mediator. In his works “Self portrait of power structure” and “I haven’t slept for Centuries”, Khaled Barakeh refers to border crossings that a passport grants or makes impossible. The artist has wooden stamps made from the stamp impressions in his passport and uses an ink that is as similar as possible to the one in his passport. Stamp impressions are placed over and next to each other on a piece of paper until they cover each other and everything else. Barakeh thus asks what the passport and the visas or border crossing stamps in it say about an individual: to what extent are identity documents a double ego? Barakeh’s work thus thematises routes and escape routes as well as life in exile.
Parastou Forouhar (*1962, Tehran/Iran) has been living in exile in Germany since 1991. As an artist and activist, she develops a variety of strategies in her work to visualise structures of violence. In her graphic, sometimes spatially staged works, she uses an ornamental visual language to show how power and powerlessness, beauty and authority are interwoven. Her long-term project “Documentation” (since 1999) is dedicated to the investigation of the political murder of her parents, the Iranian opposition members Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, in the form of an archive. With this work, she emerges from exile to join the resistance against the dictatorship in her country of origin. In doing so, she is taking a decidedly political approach to her country of origin.
The anonymous Iranian artist is an installation artist whose projects deal with classical Persian literature.
In her video work “To be, or to be” (2023), she conveys the dislocating experience of leaving something behind in a precise and impressive way. A disembodied voice, first speaking, then singing, becomes a poetic mediator between presences and absences, between performer and viewer and between darkness and the recurring hope for the next sunrise.
About the Exile Visual Arts Award
Freedom of art and artistic expression are fundamental rights in democratic societies. When these rights are suspended, artists are often forced to flee and seek protection from persecution in exile. The experiences of persecution, flight and exile can find artistic expression in very different forms.
The Exile Visual Arts Award honours works that process the confrontation with the homeland, with flight, expulsion and exile in the visual arts and convey unusual perspectives on essential questions such as identity, conflict, belonging, community, individuality, foreignness, attributions, injuries, ruptures or transitions.
Eligible works include visual arts such as painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, installation art, photography, new media and architecture.
The Exile Visual Arts Award of 10,000 euros is offered by Körber-Stiftung, supported by Stiftung Exilmuseum Berlin.