Trisha Donnelly – CENTRAL Art Prize

Trisha Donnelly – CENTRAL Art Prize

For the fifth time, the CENTRAL Health Insurance Company in cooperation with the Kölnischer Kunstverein awards the CENTRAL Art Prize for international artists. With the previous prize-winners Rirkrit Tiravanija (1996), Douglas Gordon (1998), Ernesto Neto (2000) and Florian Pumhösl (2002) the CENTRAL Art Prize has achieved an outstanding reputation within the fine arts scene, which is now continued with the nomination of Trisha Donnelly. Trisha Donnelly was nominated by an international jury consisting of Chen Y. Chaos, chief curator at the Millennium Art Museum in Peking, Hans Ulrich Obrist, curator at the Musée d´Art Modèrne de la Ville de Paris, and Beatix Ruf, director of the Kunsthalle Zürich. With the promotional prize amounting to Euro 75.000,- , in addition to its collection of contemporary art, the CENTRAL Health Insurance Company clearly signals its attention to the most recent trends in contemporary fine art, contributing to its development with active support. The CENTRAL Art Prize enables the prize-winner to spend half a year in Cologne to work on the realization of a new art project, which will be presented in summer 2005 in an exhibition at the Kölnischer Kunstverein.

In Trisha Donnelly’s work the ephemeral, the incidental often plays a special role. The basis for her work Rio from 1999, for instance, is a sunset. In this video work Trisha Donnelly stands sideways in relation to the camera, while a colored lamp behind her creates the impression of an artificially staged home-made sunset. A song is heard that was written to convey a sunset to a blind person. To the sound of this song with its Latino rhythms, Trisha Donnelly apparently begins to translate the lyrics of the song into sign language. One might think that she is communicating the atmosphere of the music to an imaginary deaf person, who is able to see the artificial sunset but not hear the song. Yet instead of translating the lyrics of the song word for word, she gives directions for finding the way to an idyllic location in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro. For the normal viewer who does not understand sign language, she hides this message, but still we are captivated by the way the light, the music and Trisha Donnelly’s gestures interweave into a kind of mystical dance that draws from a peaceful yet penetrating expression.

In comparison, some of her other works appear uncanny, almost foreboding. In Night is Coming (warning) from 2002, the statement “night is coming” that flashes again and again against a white background simply announces the coming of nightfall, reminding us of how time passes. Yet the constant, flickering repetition inevitably sparks the viewers’ imagination. It raises the question: “Do we fear the night or welcome it?” The impression can ultimately intensify to the point of an ominous portent.