The Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany, announced today that Lawrence Abu Hamdan has won its 2016 Nam June Paik Award. Given to an artist working with the digital media, the prize comes with €25,000, or about $27,000.
Abu Hamdan won for his installation earshot, which was on view earlier this year at Portikus in Frankfurt. That work, like many others by the Beirut-based artist, considers the way that sound can be political. Abu Hamdan chose to focus on the shooting of teenagers by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank. After he and Defence for Children International investigated the deaths, they found that the soldiers tried to cover up the killings, and even attempted to mask their sound with the noise of rubber bullets. Abu Hamdan then showed the sound analysis of the shootings and exhibited a video that was entirely silent.
According to a release, the jury, which included artists Dara Birnbaum and Akram Zaatari, unanimously agreed that Abu Hamdan deserved to win the award. (The other nominees were Trisha Baga, Neïl Beloufa, and Katja Novitskova.) “In his installation [earshot] he has created an open space in which we can focus with precision on his subject, its means of representation and on our own role as viewers,” the jury wrote in a statement. “The topic of the representation of violence is of great contemporary relevance, and the artist encourages us to debate key moral issues in a different way.”