The inaugural NOVA New Media Interactive Art Prize has been awarded to the Brussels-based duo LarbitsSisters by the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation and the Big House Contemporary Art Center, Wuhan, China. The NOVA Prize, awarded annually, identifies visionary artists who incorporate new media and interactive methods in their work. The Prize is dedicated to uniting artistic concepts with future-oriented technologies, facilitating communication between artists and global audiences.
The work of LarbitsSisters – social media researcher Bénédicte Jacobs and media artist Laure-Anne Jacobs – is situated at the crossroads of art, technology, and social systems. Beginning in 2010, their collaboration grew out of a shared fascination of new media, merging research and artistic practice into projects exploring traceability, data processing, network analysis, algorithms, automation, and interactivity.
LarbitsSisters won the NOVA New Media Interactive Art Prize for BitSoil Popup Tax & Hack Campaign, an internet-based installation that deploys its activity both online and offline. The project interacts with trolling social media bots on Twitter and an offline installation designed as a critical tool to restore a fair balance to the digital economy where the wealth tends to be concentrated in the coffers of a few big tech companies. BitSoil Popup Tax & Hack Campaign aims to mobilize users of social media platforms to claim a micro tax on their data (or “bitsoil”) and to call for a fair distribution of the wealth of the digital economy.
The NOVA New Media Interactive Art Prize, open to artists around the world, offers a cash prize of $16,000 and a three-city expense-paid exhibition tour beginning at the 2018 Prix Ars Electronica Festival in Austria, traveling to Big House Contemporary Art Center in Wuhan, then to New York. The exhibitions will mark the first time the work of LarbitsSisters will be on view in the U.S., China, and Austria.
Collaborating institutions for the NOVA Prize included some of the world’s most innovative art and cultural institutions, foundations, and art academies. The seven-person jury included leading artists and contemporary art curators from the U.S., China, Austria, and Germany.
“LarbitsSisters' project BitSoil Popup Tax & Hack Campaign engages with one of the most pressing problems of the digital economy: the inequalities involved in the mining of user data by tech companies for profit,” said juror Christiane Paul, curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. “Both playful and thoughtful, the work uses the TOR network, AI, bots, and the Twitter platform in very creative ways to raise awareness and actively involve users in a campaign addressing these inequalities. Moreover, BitSoil Popup Tax & Hack Campaign manages to successfully translate a very abstract process into an aesthetically sophisticated installation.”
“We initiated this prize to support emerging talents and to offer contemporary art experiences and education for the public,” said Cui Qiao, president of the Beijing Art Foundation, a publicly-funded foundation and cultural think tank in China focusing on the development of contemporary arts. “The NOVA Prize aims to inspire and encourage emerging artists to explore the intersection of art and technology and redefine the two disciplines.”
Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation
Big House Contemporary Art Center, Wuhan China
- Asian Cultural Council, New York
- Asia Society, New York
- Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University, Beijing
- Goethe-Institut China, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei
- New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
- New York University
- Prix Ars Electronica and Ars Electronica Festival, Linz, Austria
- School of Experimental Art, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing
- School of Intermedia Art, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou
- SymbioticA | The Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, The University of Western Australia, Crawley
- V2_Lab for the Unstable Media, Rotterdam
- ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany
- Cao Fei, artist
- Martin Honzik, director of the Ars Electronica Festival, Linz, Austria
- Michael Xufu Huang, board of trustees member, New Museum, New York, and co-founder, M Woods contemporary art museum, Beijing
- Li Zhenhua, curator of the film sector, Art Basel Hong Kong
- Christiane Paul, curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
- Margit Rosen, director of Collections Department, Archives & Research, ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany
- Qiu Zhijie, artist and Institute Director of Experimental Art, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing
Additional quotes from Jurors
Through observation, practices, and research analysis, LarbitsSisters’ multimedia installation work, Bitsoil Popup Tax & Hack Campaign, reflects on the current issues of the relationship between global virtual finance and network capital. The comparison of the invisible new internet exploitation system indicates a utopian future or leads us to a black hole of a world without borders. From this perspective, LarbitsSisters gives a new definition of new media art.
Michael Xufu Huang
Art has always served to push forward the development of the times. LarbitsSisters' work acutely comments on the current relationship between data and wealth in the post-internet era. Through online and offline interaction with the audience, we become part of the work and expand the influence of the work.
With the BitSoil Popup Tax & Hack Campaign the LarbitsSisters show, in an elaborate and convincing way, the potential of creating through artistic means a public forum for political-economic issues. Bénédicte and Laure-Ann Jacobs playfully anticipate a future worth changing both our habits and laws for. Their campaign for the reclaiming of value of user-generated data may turn our existence as voluntary producers of "black gold" from a quietly accepted state into a disputed matter of public concern.
LarbitsSisters' project BitSoil Popup Tax & Hack Campaign engages with one of the most pressing problems of the digital economy: the inequalities involved in the mining of user data by tech companies for profit. Both playful and thoughtful, the work uses the TOR network, AI, bots, and the Twitter platform in very creative ways to raise awareness and actively involve users in a campaign addressing these inequalities. Moreover, BitSoil Popup Tax & Hack Campaign manages to successfully translate a very abstract process into an aesthetically sophisticated installation.”
LarbitsSisters point out in an excellent way that global business practices derive from global companies in the digital economy, not only infiltrating national legislation and regulations, but also how the completely uninhibited handling of private personal data generates profits that are not reward based. In addition to this legitimate criticism, the artists have succeeded in creating a critical work of art that, through a prototypical counter-model of the common practice of taxation, is able to protect the private data of individual citizens and also make it assessable in a new economic model. With this conceptual approach, the LarbitsSisters also occupy a special position in the art world. As artists, they represent a new attitude of art creators, beyond the critical reflection of posing potential approaches to concrete solutions, not only to point out grievances, but also to solve them.
September 2018 – January 2019
Ars Electronica Festival, Austria
September 6 – 9, 2018
Big House Contemporary Art Center, China
October 27 – December 31, 2018
New York City (location TBD)
Central to the approach of LarbitsSisters is the friction between public and private, online and offline; between the unbridled faith in technological progress and everyday life. In 2011, LarbitsSisters founded Larbitslab, the Research Lab on Digital Visualization, which brings together artists and scientists around issues of networked societies. Larbitslab uses a methodological approach that combines closely observing practices, media analysis and research on technical and societal implications.
Bénédicte Jacobs is a media artist and social media researcher at the Centre de recherche en philosophie (PHI) at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. She graduated with a degree in Philosophy and Literature and holds a postgraduate degree in Information and Communication Sciences. Her research investigates the phenomenon of the transformation of the public space and explores the role of rules and regulation mechanisms governing the public domain. Her current research focuses on the ethical, legal and political challenges raised by the phenomenon of traceability on the net.
Laure-Anne Jacobs studied monumental arts at Sint-Lucas Academy in Ghent. Public space and societal issues form the elementary pillars of her art practice. She took part in several exhibition projects, frequently with aspects of integrated art. The expression and the design of her art projects originates in daily observations. The rise of digital media has formed an important role within the evolution her work. She works with digital prints, photographic images, film, and the internet.
ABOUT THE ORGANIZERS
Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation
Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation (BCAF) is the only publicly-funded foundation and cultural think tank in China focusing on the development of contemporary humanities and arts. Instituted in 2008, BCAF is dedicated to discovering cultural innovation and advancing the arts through extensive, dynamic public programs and research. BCAF is committed to supporting content creators with a global vision, and presenting contemporary Chinese arts and culture on the international stage. For further information about Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation, please visit http://www.bcaf.org.cn/en/
Big House Contemporary Art Center, Wuhan, China
Big House Contemporary Art Center in Wuhan, China, is located in a renovated 1915 textile factory. Opened in 2015, Big House has become a landmark destination offering exhibitions, art forums, and educational programs. For further information about Big House Contemporary Art Center, please visit www.bighouse.hk/#/
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.bcaf.org.cn/NOVA/en1.shtml
NICOLE STRAUS PR