Illusory Resonance

Rachel Ara, winner of the Aesthetica Art Prize 2016, has been awarded a Near Now Fellowship. Created for pioneering artists, the programme facilitates new research and the realisation of bold ideas to make sense of technology in everyday life. With the support, Ara aims to research and build a complex sculpture using multiple techniques and technologies that will interrogate their own function and engage the audience. Her piece will incorporate classic techniques such as carving as well as new avenues such as virtual reality – crossing the borders into illusion.

Ara won the Aesthetica Art Prize (AAP) in 2016 with This Much I’m Worth, a self­-evaluating artwork that continually displays its own sale value. The installation sources its value from the internet, assisted by complex data mining algorithms called “the endorsers.” Constructed with materials that resonate with the sex trade and the art world, it seeks to question the values we place on both objects and people: who has the right to apportion these values? Ara has since been working on a large-scale version of the AAP winning piece, pushing the concept further into new dimensions and conceptualised development. The latest version is larger at 4m x 2m and incorporates 80 pieces of neon, built with redundant server room equipment, IP cameras and digital aspects.

As Ara notes, in the Aesthetica Future Now Anthology: “The new piece is on a much larger scale because people expect a spectacle, and I suppose in a sense I am giving it to them. It’s about being taken seriously, creating an impact and a reference to the machismo of the large scale sculpture, responding to the art institution’s desire. I wanted to see if its size would create more chatter on the internet, for the algorithms to pick up and increase the price.”

Having exhibited the piece at Anise Gallery, London, as part of the collaborative exhibition Controlled Realities, the work is now being taken to the Electronic Visulation and Arts Conference (EVA) and the V&A’s Digital Futures: Lumen Big Reveal at Hackney House in July. A larger collection of Ara’s pieces are also on display at Vane Gallery, Newcastle, as part of Queering Minimalism this July.

To see more of Rachel Ara’s work, visit

To enter the Aesthetica Art Prize, visit

To pick up a copy of the Future Now Anthology:

1. Rachel Ara, This Much I’m Worth. Courtesy of the artist.