Visual artist Saara Ekström receives the AVEK Award for media arts

The winner of the 2018 AVEK Award is visual artist Saara Ekström. The AVEK Award for media arts, worth EUR 15,000, was presented today at the 40th anniversary celebration of Kopiosto, held in Bio Rex, Helsinki. The AVEK Award, granted by the Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture (AVEK) operating within Kopiosto, is the most significant accolade in the field of media arts in Finland.

Ekström is delighted to receive the AVEK Award. “This recognition provides indispensable support. For me, it means a possibility to continue practicing archaeology of wastelands that have emerged in the peripheries of our culture, exploring the fragile vitality of decomposing materials, and researching into broken and worn signs of past and present producing new meanings,” Ekström commented.

Ekström (b. 1965) attended the Turku Drawing School in Finland from 1983–1986 and Northern Arizona University in the United States from 1995–1996. Her works have featured in several international film festivals and major solo exhibitions in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Bildmuseet, The Nordic Watercolour Museum, Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art and Amos Anderson Art Museum, for example.

The material and topics of Ekström’s video art appear to be in a state of continuous flux. Using a range of techniques, she creates worlds where the visible and invisible, growth and decay, attractiveness and ugliness are closely intertwined. Ekström’s “aesthetics of unpleasant” calls into question the cultural hierarchies of value that pertain to materials.

The AVEK Award jury paid particular attention to the high artistic quality of Ekström’s works. “In Ekström’s works, the layers of time and history are interlaced with materiality in a poetic manner. Her works are precise and employ audiovisual techniques with the utmost skill. Ekström was a pioneer in exploring new materialism, deep time and non-human species long before these themes entered the mainstream,” the jury describe.

Ekström has skilfully tapped into her strengths in photography and environments and applied them in media arts, having successfully reinvented herself as an artist. “Her works emanate from the historical continuum of experimental film and media arts, even painting; however, Ekström has a firm control of her medium, and instead of creating pastiches and variations, her art is original,” the jury describe in their statement.

The AVEK Award jury comprised Artistic Director of Baltic Circle Festival Satu Herrala, who served as the chairperson of the jury, Director of Pori Art Museum Esko Nummelin, Commissioner for Media Art at AVEK Tuuli Penttinen-Lampisuo and Programme Coordinator at AV-Arkki Tytti Rantanen. The recipient of the award was decided by the AVEK board of directors, based on a statement from the jury. 2018 marks the 15th year of the award.

Recipients of the AVEK Award 2004–2018
Media artist Heidi Tikka (8 September 2004)
Media Artist Hanna Haaslahti (6 September 2005)
Media artist Pekka Sassi (7 September 2006)
Artist Adel Abidin (6 September 2007)
Artist Pia Lindman (11 September 2008)
Artist-curator Juha Huuskonen (10 September 2009)
Artist Jani Ruscica (9 September 2010)
Artists Lea and Pekka Kantonen (8 September 2011)
Artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen (6 September 2012)
Media artist Erkka Nissinen (5 September 2013)
Artist Annette Arlander (4 September 2014)
Visual artist Anna Estarriola (10 September 2015)
Artist Salla Tykkä (8 September 2016)
Visual artist Kari Yli-Annala (7 September 2017)
Visual artist Saara Ekström (13 September 2018)