2020 can be said to have been the great year of digital. As our lifestyles have slowed, plans put on hold, one thing that was made clear from the flurry of digital exhibitions and artworks that transformed the internet into a vast virtual gallery, is that human creativity rages on.
The Dream Commission, Muse’s flagship initiative, strives to support this spirit of innovation at a time when it has never been more vital. Recognising the growing importance of new technologies in contemporary art, it provides a platform to emerging and mid-career artists working in the medium of moving image.
Four artists have now made it onto a shortlist after a meticulous selection process by an international jury of the art world’s leading figures: artistic director of Serpentine Galleries Hans Ulrich Obrist; senior curator at Fondation Beyeler Theodora Vischer; former director of the Parrish Art Museum Terrie Sultan; director of the Australian Centre for the Moving Images Katrina Sedgwick and artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien.
"You look at the breadth of practice that has been selected for us here to consider and it’s just extraordinary.
The sophistication of ideas and expression that is taking form across this media is so inspiring."
Engaging with the notion of “dreaming”, the commission seeks to shine a spotlight on artists who take us beyond the realm of everyday experience. Moving-image works, which can include everything from experimental film, animation, augmented and virtual reality and installation, can be powerful portals to new sensory planes. With their association with the spectacular and new realities and identities, dreaming can be said to be at the heart of these art forms.
Prior to the jurors selecting the shortlisted artists, an international group of nominators created a longlist. The nominators included the Beijing-based artist Cao Fei, Daniel Birnbaum the Director of Acute Art, London Zachary Kaplan, Executive Director of Rhizome, New York and Pablo León de la Barra, Curator, New York & Rio de Janeiro, and Suhanya Raffel, Director of M+, Hong Kong.
The jury had the challenge – during the pandemic - of narrowing down a long list of incredibly high quality works which, for Vischer, “made this an incredibly engaging but very difficult choice to make”, but for her, this also means that it is one of “the most exciting and engaging curatorial projects that [she has] participated in for quite some time”. For Sedgwick, the process was also both “difficult and satisfying”, having been blown away by the wide range of works: “You look at the breadth of practice that has been selected for us here to consider and it’s just extraordinary. The sophistication of ideas and expression that is taking form across this media is so inspiring.”
The jury took care to make sure the shortlist represented the heterogeneity of the moving-image field not only in terms of practice but also in the global scope of artists. According to Vischer, the panel “succeeded to include such a variety of artists from different countries and cultures and different kinds of artistic thinking,” with Obrist likewise summing up the final selection as “a synthesis”.
An artist himself, Julien understands how something like the Dream Commission can help artists develop their practice, allowing them “to really delve into an area where they can really have an autonomy to make a work which can resonate”. In 2015, he was commissioned by Muse to create the film “Stones Against Diamonds” which explored the hypnotic beauty of Icelandic glaciers.
“All I can say is that I’m quite sure this is going to be a transformational experience for everyone concerned.”
At a time when most interactions with the outside world are being mediated through a screen, moving-image works, many of them digital and accessible online, have a special poignancy. Their imaginative power and potential as mediums for story-telling provide not only much-needed forms of escapism, but can also offer new ways of experiencing art in the future. Sultan sees the Dream Commission as pivotal in this sense: “All I can say is that I’m quite sure this is going to be a transformational experience for everyone concerned.”
The Dream Commission shortlist of artists was announced on the 21st October 2020 and includes Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Martine Syms, Sondra Perry and Zhou Tao.
Hans Ulrich Obrist. Photo © Tyler Mitchell
Isaac Julien. Photo © Graeme Robertson
Terrie Sultan. Photo © Daniel Gonzalez
Theodora Vischer. Photo © Pati Grabowicz
Cao Fei. Photo © 9mouth, 2017.
Daniel Birnbaum. Photo © John Scarisbrick.