Release of 28.09.2020

TBA21 launches st_age: An online platform for new artist commissions

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st_age teaser by Jotateam Studio

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st_age is a new online platform launched by collector and philanthropist, Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza’s TBA21 foundation as a response to the ongoing global impacts of Covid-19 on artists, communities and the intersection with social/environmental issues. 

Short-hand for the ‘streaming age’, st_age will become a hub for a community of like-minded practitioners and audiences who wish to explore urgent topics through a series of new commissions especially produced for this program. Every commissioned work relates to one or more of the sustainable development Goals of the UN, with the aim to contribute to a concerted global effort to instigate measurable change. 

Though initially conceived as a specific response to the effects of Covid-19 on art production, st_age has become for Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza a manifestation of a vision for a new art world, which has brought into focus the urgent need to shift or transform the structure of the arts ecosystem in a way that provides longevity and more social responsibility. This is a vision for more collaboration, rather than competition among arts organisations, to help support artists at the very source of their practice, foregrounding urgent voices from communities that have been under-represented. 

TBA21 has worked as a major commissioning body for artist projects that address social issues for close to 20 years. When faced by the prospect of having to cancel several commissioned projects this year, the foundation was forced to re-examine and re-think its practice altogether to propose a new way of working that ensures a sustainable future for the arts ecosystem and the conversations it generates. 

As a virtual space, st_age has capacity to bring together a huge scope of international artists and brings hyper-local practices to the fore. A new commission ‘episode’ will be introduced to the platform each week, building up content gradually as a series. These artworks are grouped under a number of themes that address key issues of social injustice, such as the right to defend nature and human rights. Some highlights of the first season include:  

Singaporean film-maker, Yeo Siew Hua, whose film is a call to action to defend the right of environmental activists in the Philippines to speak out against climate injustice;  

- a series of sound-works by Himali Singh Soin that brings together poems from her book we are opposite like that, meditating on themes of alienation and intimacy, the loss of ecological habitats and the loss of home; 

Daniel Steegman Mangrané’s ‘Panther Dreaming’, an online animation of infinite duration stemming from his life-long obsession with the Amazonian rainforest and research into the boundary between nature and artifice; 

- an interactive publication by Patricia Domínguez following three years of research into conflicts connected to the issue of water in South America, connecting with vital eco-political movements in Chile;

- ‘Voyage Entre Deux’, a choreographed performance by Congolese artist and dancer, Dorine Mokha, an extended project driven by personal experience of multiple political crises and social realities of life in the DRC, with a particular engagement with LGBTQI rights;

- audio-visual work by Saudi–Palestinian artist, Dana Awartani, drawing on the little documented tradition of women poets in the Islamic world and addressing issues of silencing and invisibility that still play a fundamental role within the cultural fabric of the Middle East;

freq_wave, a project commissioned by TBA21–Academy and curated by Carl Michael von Hausswolff, involving 84 sound artists and composers in a web-based interactive collaboration. A series of live digital concerts on st_age will create a cross-section of the sea’s sonic and spatial dimensions, bringing a communal, underwater sensorium into digital space. 

As a digital platform, st_age also makes possible for audiences to make deep connections with the works and issues it presents by being able to view at home. The commissioned works will each be contextualised by accompanying podcast materials and research clusters that expand the conversation around the work, and a specific call-to-action inviting audiences to immediately engage with the issues addressed in the content. The season also presents a number of live talks with artists and collaborators, including an in-conversation with Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza and artist, Joan Jonas, and a day-talk with Shanghai Biennale

Exemplifying its manifesto for new collaborative models of working, several international partners are involved in realising the first season of commissions for st_age, including: FLORA ars+natura, Khoj International Artists’ Association, NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Shanghai Biennale, and TBA21–Academy.The second season of st_age programming will begin in 2021 with new partners and artists. 

Artists: Dana Awartani, Patricia Domínguez, freq_wave by Carl Michael von Hausswolff, Dorine Mokha Courtney Desiree Morris, Eduardo Navarro with BaRiya, Christian Salablanca Díaz, Saraab (Omer Wasim and Shahana Rajani), Yeo Siew Hua, Himali Singh Soin with David Soin Tappeser, and Daniel Steegmann Mangrané.


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Notes to Editors

Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza is the fourth generation of the Thyssen family committed to the arts. As the founder of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) she is a collector who forges relationships with contemporary artists through a program of commissions as the preferred method of adding works to the collection. These commissions are a reflection of her personal concern for the rapidly changing world we live in and the urgencies we face. She fundamentally believes in cultural diplomacy, which she learned from her father’s cultural exchanges with the Soviet Union in the 1980s during his, but has taken this practice to a whole other level by facilitating the foundation’s first commission in 2004, and taking the work of the foundation consciously into a practice of care and engagement. She later pushed the foundation into a further direction by supporting the creation of the TBA21–Academy as the exploratory soul of TBA21, a practice of artistic research focused exclusively on the oceans.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) is a leading international art foundation, founded in Vienna in 2002 by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza. Promoting art as a powerful agent for change, the foundation aims to investigate pressing issues of the day and supports artistic practices that are informed by social and environmental concerns. Seeking to forge new, productive relationships between artistic research and creative work in the sciences and the humanities, TBA21 operates a unique program of commissions, often working in partnership with leading cultural organizations across the world. These include, for example, an important series of collaborations with Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (MNTB) in Madrid.


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st_age logo in white
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Yeo Siew Hua, An Invocation to the Earth, 2020
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Yeo Siew Hua, 'An Invocation to the Earth', 2020
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Himali Singh Soin, ‘we are opposite like that’, 2019. Book.
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Himali Singh Soin with David Tappeser, digital score for “Antarctica was a queer rave before it got busted by colonial white farts”, 2020
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Patricia Domínguez, La balada de las sirenas secas, 2020.
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Christian Salablanca Díaz, Geometría del Centro, 2020
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Christian Salablanca Díaz, Geometría del Centro, 2020. Diagramas conceptuales. Photo_ Courtesy the artist
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st_age teaser by Jotateam Studio

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