NEW YORK (October 28, 2014) - Abounaddara has been named winner of The New School’s 2014 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics by an international jury of artists, critics, writers and researchers. An anonymous collective that emerged at the onset of the civil uprising that led to the Syrian Civil War, Abounaddara – Arabic for “man with glasses” – posts one video on Vimeo every week about individual Syrians on all sides of the conflict, providing an immediate, disturbing and intimate record of one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our age.
A self-styled “emergency cinema,” Abounaddara transcends mainstream war reporting by making use of both the wide reach and anonymity afforded by online video platforms. Through brief impressionistic videos often focusing on a single individual, the group’s work depicts daily life in a society wracked by ongoing atrocities: a sniper – whose interview is intercut with images of a shooting video game – who estimates that he has killed up to 600 people but still cries for his wife’s miscarried child; an “unknown soldier,” depicted in shadows and tortured by memories of the atrocities he has seen; an Alawite woman discussing how she became a rebel sympathizer; a young man disappeared into police custody. To Abounaddara, defending the “right to the image” as a human right drives their work. Collectively these weekly video missives fight for the freedom and dignity of all Syrians, implying that the Syrian crisis is far from “local” or “isolated,” but is a matter of global concern and global doing.
Abounaddara was selected after an international search from among 22 projects worldwide. Nominees were based in locations including Johannesburg, Guatemala City, Berlin, and Sydney, submitted by nominators representing 16 countries. Reflective of the prize’s interdisciplinary orientation, the award jury was composed of geographer and environmentalist Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, faculty representative Lydia Matthews, curator Helen Molesworth, artist Doris Salcedo, and Vera List Center Director Carin Kuoni.
“Via a combination of the temporality of journalism and the poetics of cinema, the mixture of documentary and aesthetic values, Abounaddara’s work possesses a quality of multiplicity, making it at home equally on the internet, in film theaters, and in art exhibitions. It’s possible, that in the age of the ‘selfie,’ Abounaddara is at work on a new form of portraiture,” the jury wrote in its citation.
"Transcending political, disciplinary and artistic boundaries, Abounaddara's videos reveal the conflict in Syria on a human scale, creating a crucial link between Syria and the rest of the world, outside of the political framework of war," said New School President David E. Van Zandt. "In honoring Abounaddara, The New School continues its longstanding commitment to providing a haven for scholars and artists seeking freedom of thought and
The Vera List Center Prize represents a two-year commitment by the New School community and external audiences to the prize winner and their project. The prize, which includes a grant and provides for various forms of engagement over several semesters, including a scholarly conference, lectures and/or an exhibition in Parsons’ Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, challenges the public to consider how arts advance social justice and how such work is examined. In addition, students and faculty at The New School will engage with Abounaddara’s members and methods in classes and research projects that explore the collective’s singular approach to the intersection of aesthetics and politics. The inaugural prize was granted to Theaster Gates, who brought his installation A Way of Working to The New School in 2013.
“The Vera List Center Prize is a direct expression of The New School’s century-long commitment to creative expression in support of democracy and social justice,” said VLC Director Carin Kuoni. “We are humbled by Abounaddara’s bold acts of creating counter narratives that challenge our notions of what makes a filmmaker, an artist, an activist – but also implicate us as viewers, and as Americans. Their videos are laying the ground work for reconciliation long before such legal processes can be put into place.”
Founded in 1992 and named in honor of the late philanthropist Vera List, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics is a public forum for discussion on the role of the arts in society and their relationship to the sociopolitical climate in which they are created. The Center organizes programs, seminars, workshops, performances, exhibitions, classes and publications that respond to some of the pressing social and political issues of our time. It focuses on cultural production that emerges from within and outside the traditional art world and seeks to intervene in contemporary political debates. Positioned where scholarship develops into resource, policy and civic engagement, the center calls on the university community, the people of New York, and national and international audiences to explore new possibilities for civic engagement. Learn more at www.veralistcenter.org.
The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center is an award-winning campus center for Parsons The New School for Design. The mission of the Center is to generate an active dialogue on the role of innovative art and design in responding to the contemporary world. Its programming encourages an interdisciplinary examination of possibility and process, linking the university to local and global debates. For more information, visit www.newschool.edu/sjdc.
The New School, a leading progressive university in New York City, was founded in 1919 as a center of intellectual and artistic freedom. Today The New School is still in the vanguard of innovation and experimentation in higher education, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students in design and the social sciences, the humanities, management, and the performing arts and thousands of adult learners in continuing education courses. Committed to public engagement, The New School welcomes thousands of New Yorkers yearly to its celebrated public programs and maintains a global presence through its online learning programs, research institutes, and international partnerships. Learn more at www.newschool.edu.