benno barth

The third edition of the benno barth award 2021 was announced in January 2021.

A total of 33 applications were submitted within the deadline of 30.03.2021.
In the meeting on 17.04.2021 the jury decided to support two applications with a total amount of Euro 15,000.

Award winners

Greta Mentzel
& Heinz Mader



Research on the potter wasp and transit

Heinz Mader discovered by chance a particularly beautifully shaped object, which prompted him to take a closer look. A small casing made of clay, about two to three centimetres long, with a round hole as an entrance. It is a very small clay pot that serves as a food-supplied incubator, a cocoon for the potter wasp, Sceliphron curvatum, a wasp with a migratory background: northwest India, Nepal, Kashmir, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan. Solitary and stateless, it was first recorded in Europe in 1979 and lives there without endangering other species.

An example of successful migration? Care, emancipation, hospitality, migration, depopulation, identity: topics that encouraged Greta Mentzel and Heinz Mader to carry out research, not on site, in Pakistan or Nepal, but in the minds of different people. From the questions and stories of these encounters came drawings, a film, a poster and a performance. Something was set in motion.

Caterina Laruccia - herself a 'potter wasp' - created drawings and became a protagonist in the film. Not only does everything that flies, such as an air-fraighted fruit, play a role in the film. But also what it means to migrate as a woman, to find images for the state of existing in the middle of nowhere, to transform, settle, live and die. 'They lived here before us and they will outlive us. They have accompanied us since time immemorial, close and common like no other living creature,' the poster by Heinz Mader quotes the anthropologist Hugh Raffles. At the end of the film, the sentence can be heard: "Combat is unnecessary. You should not get rid of them."

Three insect masks were created, made in layers, like clay wrappers, and just as exotic, like the mason wasp, which anyone can be.

Greta Mentzel

Greta Mentzel & Heinz Mader, FREE TRANSIT, 2023

Leander Schwazer

(Prati/Vipiteno, I; Esslingen,D)

Inventur (inventory) project, 2021-2022

Within the project Inventur (inventory), the creation of 'living' paintings - a desire of every painter and sculptor since the Renaissance - is understood in a literal way: micro-organisms nestle in heavy canvases, creating 'living paintings', which require special care and attention.

The crises of our times have definitively turned any fantasy of human omnipotence into impotence. The time has come to seek new alliances, in addition to human ones. This is exactly what I have tried to do in the context of the benno barth award for socially engaged art projects, and in doing so, I have tried to extend the concept of 'social' beyond the purely human sphere.

It was about bringing different living beings together. The Inventur project is based on a very personal material, the hand-woven sheets of my ancestors. The textiles date back to a time when 'upcycling' - the recycling and repair of textiles - was still part of everyday life for the mountain population of South Tyrol. This is testified to by the numerous patches skilfully applied to the fabrics. These have a history, they tell of their use and of the people who have lain on them. The project literally fills them with new life.The sheets of my ancestors became living pictures. For this purpose, tiny micro-organisms were inserted into the fabrics. In collaboration with the London-based Post Carbon Lab, it was ensured that they would actually settle in the fabrics.

Inventur is an attempt to take stock, a research trip to a new concept of art in which as many living beings as possible are involved. The benno barth award has stimulated a whole series of new, multifaceted works. Works, in which 'the other' has taken up residence and which require special attention.

Leander Schwazer, Wiesen in November 2023

Leander Schwazer, Love (study), 2021
Microorganisms on hand-woven linen
30 x 40 cm
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