Chroniclers of our Times

Chroniclers of our Times

The Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition is the place to discover game-changing contemporary artists. This year’s display celebrates captivating work from 21 new luminaries who are using art as a way of expressing emotion, reflecting reality and inspiring change. A highlight from this year’s display is our Main Prize winner, Maryam Tafakory, who explores love and desire in Iranian cinema – where intimacy between men and women is prohibited – in her compelling film, Nazarbazi [the play of glances]. In the first room of the show, you will also find thought-provoking work from Emerging Prize winner Gala Hernández López. She investigates incel culture in The Mechanics of Fluids, using the moving image to explore the effects of unregulated online communities. Elsewhere, photographer JeeYoung Lee presents imaginative, surreal and vibrant worlds in the series Stage of Mind whilst Mo H. Zareei’s electrochemical sound sculpture, Material Sequencer, creates a soundscapes that resonates throughout the gallery space.  

The show follows the Future Now Symposium, which brought hundreds of attendees to York for two days of lively conversations about pressing topics in the creative sector. Speakers included artists and representatives from leading institutions, such as Tate, V&A, Barbican and more. For instance, Turner Prize-winning multimedia practitioner Heather Phillipson shared key insights into her practice, such as her unique approach when it comes to “sampling” found images and objects. Other talks revolved around the future of exhibition spaces, such as Suzanne Livingston’s discussion about The Relationship
Between Humans and AI
and the panel about Curation in the 21st Century. A key event in the UK arts calendar, Future Now invites people from around the world to dig deep into the debates that matter.

Art is a platform for profound discussion and self-reflection. It is an agent of change. If there is one thing that we can learn from this year’s Future Now presentation, across both the Symposium and Art Prize Exhibition, it is that we live in a world where the rules of engagement are always shapeshifting. In many ways this is positive because change at a global level needs to happen and in many cases it is not happening quick enough. At the same time, it is important that we do not lose sight of each other and the human connection we share. As Cherie Federico, the Director of the Aesthetica Art Prize, states: “Contemporary art can change the world and here in York, a UNESCO City of Media Arts, we are doing just that. It’s unexpected for York to be the destination for global conversations around contemporary artistic practice, but we are pushing the envelope with powerful works and bold programming that looks at every facet of life in the 21st century. The pieces on display are timely, immediate and necessary.” 

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We are taking the temperature of contemporary artistic practice across a range of media. Journey into the pink salt lakes of Kherson, Ukraine, with Yevhen Samuchenko’s photographs and then scrutinise the consequences of AI in Sigita Silina’s artist film Liminal Potential. Works are active rather than passive, and, together, they create a dialogue that defies existing paradigms and contributes to the progression of the human story. The pieces on display are a testament to creativity that will influence generations to come.

York Art Gallery, The Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition | Until 21 April 2024

To learn more about the 2024 Aesthetica Art Prize Shortlist and Longlist, click here.
The Aesthetica Art Prize is open for entries until 31 August. To find out more, click here.

Image Credits:

  1. Installation View of Brigitte Amarger, La Chute.
  2. Installation View of Ayrton ‘Sam’ Mendes still from Ayaba – Rainha – Queen (2023). Single channel digital video, 31 min 51 sec.
  3. Installation View of Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition (2024).
  4. Heather Phillipson in Conversation with Sarah Perks at Future Now Symposium (2024).