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Lek's winning work is a conversation between the AI that handles surveillance in SimBeijing, a city abandoned by humanity, and itself.

Lawrence Lek Wins VH AWARD for Asian New Media Artists

Lawrence Lek, Black Cloud (2021). Grand prix winner of the 4th VH AWARD. Provided by HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP VH AWARD.

London-based artist Lawrence Lek was announced the winner of the US $25,000 VH AWARD in a virtual ceremony online today. He won over fellow finalists Doreen Chan, Paribartana Mohanty, Syaura Qotrunadha, and Jungwon Seo.

Lek's prize-winning work, Black Cloud (2021), is a dialogue between the Black Cloud AI, which is charged with surveillance of SimBeijing city, and a distinct part of its own intelligence. Through this self-therapy, the AI tries to understand the sadness it feels in a world where there are no humans left, only cars driving autonomously on otherwise empty streets.

'The virtual tools, such as computer-generated images and computer games, can enable contemporary artists to create environments that reflect some of the utopian ideas of architecture,' said Lek, who is represented by Sadie Coles HQ, London.

'I enjoy the freedom that these virtual spaces offer, as they are not limited by the same financial or political considerations involved in creating real-life architecture,' he said.

Lawrence Lek, Grand prix winner of the 4th VH AWARD. ©Ilyes Griyeb, image

Lawrence Lek, Grand prix winner of the 4th VH AWARD. ©Ilyes Griyeb, image courtesy of Art Basel. Provided by HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP VH AWARD.

Hosted by Korean automaker Hyundai, the VH AWARD goes to an emerging new media artist with an Asian background. Lek, who was born in Frankfurt and now lives in London, is of Chinese-Malaysian descent.

This year was the first time artists outside South Korea were eligible to apply. The previous winners are Dongjoo Seo, Hyungkyu Kim, and Je Baak.

This year's five finalists each received US $25,000 to produce a new work. They also participated in an eight-week online residency programme hosted by New York art and tech centre Eyebeam.

The works created by the 2021 VH AWARD finalists will be screened at art institutions and virtual museums around the globe. Further details are yet to be announced. —[O]

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