The fifteenth annual Index exhibition opened at Kunsthaus Hamburg on November 12th. We decided to seize the opportunity of this anniversary to reenvision the show. The new Index is even more focused on its central purpose, to highlight the work of young artists, and so the art on view—mostly works in new media and installations—will no longer be for sale. One of the contributing artists has been honored with the Berenberg Young Artist Award: Andrzej Steinbach.
As in the past, Index offers a survey of tendencies in contemporary art, but this year’s artists were selected with an emphasis on thematic connections as well. One crucial theme in the works on display is the idea of authenticity, as reflected in exaggerated artistic strategies of self-optimization as well as our society’s embrace of the aspiration to individuality; the artists analyze these issues in light of global structures of representation shaped by digital communication technology.
For Business as Usual, his satirical exposé on an enterprising young artist showing off his sleek self-marketing efforts and creative efficiency in illustrations on whiteboards, the Düsseldorf-based artist Johannes Bendzulla resorts to the stereotypical imagery and linguistic repertoire of corporate marketing departments. A similar strategy of defamiliarization through imitation emerges in Tom Duggan’s video piece Infographics—Living on the Edge. The British artist appropriates the material for his montages from online sources, rendering the distinction between reality and fiction, between identity and anonymous visuals irrelevant. The two protagonists of Stab & Fleisch, a video by Rosanna Graf, who recently graduated from the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg, have become caught up in an endless loop of self-documentation: the selfie stick, and instrument of permanent reflection and potential connection to an imaginary spectator, is revealed to be a source of farcical disillusionment. Employing techniques of affirmation, appropriation, or role-play, the artists offer diverse critical analyses of contemporary culture’s narrative and representational formats.
The award, which carries a €5.000 prize, goes to artists who graduated from an art academy or similar institution in Germany or abroad in the past three years. This year’s shortlist includes graduates of the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg as well as the Städelschule, Frankfurt; Goldsmiths College, London; and the Academy of Fine Arts of Düsseldorf. The private bank Berenberg, which underwrites the award, also supports the Index project as a whole with a generous grant, further thanks go to Hamburgische Kulturstiftung and Hamburg Kreativwirtschaft.
Dr. Brigitte Kölle, Hamburger Kunsthalle
Tasja Langenbach, Videonale Bonn
Dr. Dirk Luckow, Deichtorhallen Hamburg
Fabian Schöneich, Portikus Frankfurt/Main
Katja Schroeder, Kunsthaus Hamburg