Video of Durational Performance Wins Ramsay Art Prize 2023
By Xiyun Wu
On May 25, the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) named artist Ida Sophia as the winner of Ramsay Art Prize 2023, the biggest prize awarded to Australian artists under 40 in the nation. The decision was made unanimously among the judges. Sophia received the AUD 100,000 (USD 65,400) cash prize, and her winning performance-based video work, Witness (2022), debuted at the art prize’s exhibition in Adelaide at the AGSA on May 27, 2023.
Through rigorous training at the Marina Abramović Institute and Guillermo Gomez Peña’s La Pocha Nostra troupe, Sophia incorporates her performance practice with video, sculpture, and installation. Through employing corporeal bodies and personal narratives, her works examine the universal experiences of suffering and explore the possibility of embracing and reconciling with these experiences with one’s reasons and faith.
Her winning work, Witness, was primarily drawn from Sophia’s childhood experience of witnessing her father’s baptism and her attempts to gain his attention through religious devotion while being agonistic. The 12-minute-long performance-based video captures Sophia’s repeated attempts of submerging herself under The Pool of Siloam in Wirmalngrang/Beachport—a site-specific biblical reference and where the artist spent time swimming as a child—and demonstrates the “exhaustive, violent, and ultimately futile actions of vain hope.” Aaron Seeto, director of Jakarta’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Nusantara and one of this year’s judges, praised the “sophisticated concept, personal symbolism, and emotional connection to the site of performance” in Witness. He added, “We were particularly struck by the integration of durational performance and its translation into video, which created a visceral experience for the viewer.”
The Ramsay Art Prize is a biennial prize for contemporary Australian artists established by James and Diana Ramsay. The judging panel for this year’s prize comprised Seeto; Erin Coates, Perth-based visual artist and creative producer; and Nici Cumpston, AGSA’s artistic director of Tarnanthi and curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art. The edition this year selected a total of 27 finalists with more than 300 entries submitted nationwide. The announcement of the AUD 15,000 (USD 9,800) People’s Choice Prize, another segment of the Ramsay Art Prize, is scheduled for August 11. The exhibition will remain open until August 27, 2023.
Xiyun Wu is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.