Fundación Telefónica is pleased to announce that Natalie Jeremijenko (Australia, 1966) has been awarded the second VIDA Pioneers Prize. The jury highlighted the pioneering nature of Natalie Jeremijenko’s work and her extraordinary ability to describe the hybrid context of today’s art, where the overlap between art, science, technology, and society reflects the rapidly changing reality of contemporary culture. The VIDA Awards rank among the most important distinctions in the field of new media art and are the only prizes in the world dedicated to art and artificial life. Created in 1999 by Fundación Telefónica, VIDA aims to encourage and strengthen the close bond between emerging artistic practices and technological and scientific innovation. The VIDA Pioneers Prize, created on VIDA’s 10th anniversary in 2009, has returned for a second time in 2014 to celebrate the competition’s 15th anniversary. The prize, endowed with a purse of 12,000 euros, is given to an artist who has made a notable contribution to the development and evolution of art and new media. The VIDA 16.0 jury, comprising Mónica Bello, Laura Fernández Orgaz, Honor Harger, Marina MacDougall, Roger Malina, Jose Carlos Mariátegui, and Nell Tenhaaf, chose Australian artist Natalie Jeremijenko as the recipient of the second VIDA Pioneers Prize from among a total of 33 candidates who had previously been nominated by a select committee of international experts. Natalie Jeremijenko, named one of the most influential women in technology in 2011, is currently one of the most widely acclaimed artists in the field of art and new media. Spanning more than two decades, her career has been characterized by a surprising ability to interpret the scientific revolutions of our time and their social, political, and cultural implications. The most significant contribution of this creator and inventor has been her savvy application of the latest technical breakthroughs in such diverse fields as robotics, genetic engineering, information technologies, electromechanics, and interactive design to achieve formal results that illustrate the powerful role these media play in contemporary society. At the same time, she has also been able to connect artists and designers with scientists and engineers, assembling dynamic multidisciplinary teams to come up with proposals that can be implemented in the public arena. She has participated in technology projects at some of the most important research labs, including Xerox PARC, the Center for Design Research at Stanford University, and the Center for Advance Technology at New York University. Her projects are elaborate experiments conducted in urban environments that invite collective participation and are unique in that they involve heading into the field to come up with solutions to environmental problems or analyze the biological substrate of our surroundings. We see this in some of her best-known work from the late 1990s: the famous “OneTrees” project from 1998, an installation consisting of 1,000 cloned trees that were placed in different urban locations to record the reactions to their presence in the urban ecosystem; or the well-known “Feral Robotic Dogs” (1999), a project involving several semi-autonomous robots that research and detect environmental risks associated with chemical pollution. Another of her star projects is undoubtedly the pioneering online magazine Biotech Hobbyist (1999), co-founded with Eugene Thacker and Heath Bunting, an obvious forerunner of today’s DIYBio communities. In fact, one of Natalie Jeremijenko’s most remarkable achievements, as noted by the jury, is her determination to view artistic practice as an ongoing research process—a vision that is clearly expressed in these projects. This prize has been awarded in recognition of Jeremijenko’s extraordinary capacity to guide and equip younger artists and researchers, as proven by her work at some of today’s most prestigious academic and research institutions. The Department of Visual Art at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Yale University, the Royal College of Art, London, and the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California, are just some of the institutions where Jeremijenko has played an active role as an artist, teacher, mentor, and researcher. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art and Art Education at New York University, where she is also an Affiliated Professor in Computer Science and in Environmental Studies. She combines her teaching activity with her duties as director of a bold initiative called the Environmental Health Clinic, an actual clinic within the university network which, instead of treating human ailments, prescribes solutions to specific environmental problems. Jeremijenko’s work has attracted significant attention in a variety of fields, including art, design, technology and science. In 1999 she was listed as one of the “100 Top Young Innovators” in the MIT Technology Review and made a Rockefeller Fellow; in 2005, the prestigious I.D. Magazine (The International Design Magazine) named her one of the most influential designers of the year; and, more recently, in 2011, she was identified as one of the most influential women in technology. In the art world, some of the world’s leading institutions have commissioned a significant number of projects from Jeremijenko and organized shows of her work. She has had major solo exhibitions at the MASS MoCA (Massachusetts), the Whitney Biennial (New York), and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (New York), and participated in group shows at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), the MoMA (New York), and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid).
Above all, this year’s prize winner stands out because of her contribution to some of the greatest advances in this field: providing original production models, new display paradigms, and experimental forms of user participation and interaction. In the words of Mónica Bello, artistic director of VIDA: “Jeremijenko has used contemporary technologies in an entirely innovative way, and in the process she has helped the practice of art expand into new territories, challenged the boundaries between disciplines, and intervened with precision in the emergence of new fields of knowledge. Awarding the VIDA Pioneers Prize to Natalie, an artist whose creative genius is ahead of her time, is proof of the VIDA competition’s commitment to recent art history and to future and emerging practices, which are made possible by the visionary efforts of pioneers like her”.