13 June 2014

Prix Pictet: In Conversation

Prix Pictet display 2014 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Prix Pictet is an annual photography and sustainability prize funded by the Swiss Banking firm; Pictet Group. The award is in its tenth year and for the first time this year it was hosted at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition includes the work of Michael Schmidt -this year’s winner for his “Lebensmittel” as well as the ten shortlisted finalists; Adam Bartos, Motoyuki Daifu, Rineke Dijkstra, Hong Hao, Mishka Henner, Juan Fernando Herran, Boris Mikhailov, Abrham Oghobase, Allan Sekula, Laurie Simmons.

Prix Pictet: In Conversation was a panel discussion at the Museum on the 22nd May, which enabled the public to gain an understanding of the prize’s objectives and the poignancy of this year’s theme “consumption”. Each of the shortlisted artists had approached this theme so differently that the panel discussion really highlighted the many ways in which photography can be used as a medium and the diverse interpretations of this year’s theme.

The panel included Professor Sir David King, Chair of the Prix Pictet Consumption Jury, Hong Hao, shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Consumption for “My Things”, Mishka Henner, shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Consumption for “Beef and Oil” and Bergit Arends, a contemporary art curator.

The focus of the discussion was an exploration of the theme “consumption” and the contexts in which it can be viewed. Professor Sir David King spoke of “the devastation of our world due to the consumer’s desires” and praised this year’s winner, Michael Schmidt for his ability to produce familiar images yet present them in such a way to make them appear extraordinary. King discussed the work of Schmidt explaining that “Lebensmittel is an epic and hugely topical investigation into the ways in which we feed ourselves,” as Schmidt’s imagery challenges the viewers to think about their own physical consumption - through both its process and origins.

Hong Hao described his entry to this year’s prize, “My Things,” explaining how it derived from an observation of the social constraint in his life caused by both people and objects. By scanning images he made a collage which he referred to as a “timeline of his life in pictures.” Through the technique of scanning he established a way to break free from traditional methods of photography, explaining how scanning provided him with “objectivity” because one can see everything in a scanned image. By creating a 2D image via scanning, the depth of the image seen in traditional photography is also lost. The use of scanning can enable clear lines to emerge within the composition, as objects are not blurred or pixelated like they can be with traditional photographs.

Mishka Henner went onto discuss the paradoxical elements of his submission for this year’s prize. He explained how making pictures had created a skepticism within him – yet despite this he continues to believe in the power of one image. Henner also breaks free from traditional photography methods in his work, using google maps to take multiple zoomed in screen shots. This process has allowed Henner to start to see larger systems for living and dying within his work, which in turn made him consider the bigger cultural issues attached such as agricultural gagging laws (which prevent people from taking photographs in order to protect industries.)

The work of both of these artists and more can be seen at the Prix Pictet display at the V&A until the end of Saturday 14 June. The exhibition free and no booking is required.  

Grace attended the Prix Pictet: In Conversation panel discussion as a member of CreateVoice. To find out more about the opportunities with the V&A youth collective email create@vam.ac.uk

Words by: Grace Radford

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