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Meet the inspiring winners of the CHANEL Next Prize

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Ten creatives – from filmmakers and musicians to dancers and video game designers – discuss how the arts and culture award will shape their work moving forward

Late last year, CHANEL announced the winners of the 2021 CHANEL Next Prize, the first ever iteration of its new, international arts and culture award. Continuing the French luxury label’s legacy of supporting avant-garde artists, the biennial award gives a grant to 10 creatives in the fields of film, performance, music, and visual art, who are considered to be redefining the creative industries they inhabit.

The inaugural CHANEL Next Prize was judged by a panel of acclaimed cultural icons, including the British actress Tilda Swinton, Chinese artist Cao Fei, and Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye. More importantly, though, the ten winners include artists at the cutting edge of their respective fields, from composer Jung Jae-il (who we can thank for the scores to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and Squid Game), to the poet and visual artist Precious Okoyomon.

Also among the winners are filmmakers Rungano Nyoni (I Am Not a Witch), Eduardo Williams, and Wang Bing, and dancers-slash-choreographers Marlene Monteiro Freitas and Botis Seva. From the rapidly-expanding sphere of video games comes game developer and designer Lual Mayen, whose first publication, Salaam, includes built-in mechanics that benefit real-world refugees. Rounding out the list are the boundary-breaking theatre director Marie Schleef, and the future-facing art collective Keiken (AKA artists Hana Omori, Isabel Ramos, and Tanya Cruz).

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The recipients of the prize were initially announced in December 2021. “We extend CHANEL’s deep history of cultural commitment,” said Yana Peel, CHANEL’s global head of arts and culture, at the time. “Empowering big ideas and creating opportunities for an emerging generation of artists to imagine the next.”

Up until now, however, CHANEL’s vanguard of next-generation creatives haven’t actually come together in person. This will occur for the first time at this year’s Venice Biennale, where they are set to convene as a group, to engage, merge practices, and share ideas. Dazed readers will also be able to follow along with coverage on Dazed’s social channels beginning April 20.

In the meantime, get to know each winner of the CHANEL Next Prize below.

JUNG JAE-IL, COMPOSER

Jung is a musician, producer, and composer whose most famous soundtracks have accompanied Bong Joon-ho’s Okja (2017) and Parasite (2019), and the Netflix hit Squid Game (2021).

“I’m in my living room with a picture of choreographer Pina Bausch who is my dearest one in my entire life. Since the day I watched her piece called Nelken, I just wanted to have a beautiful life, wanted to be a better person.”

“I’m a composer and performer from South Korea, now based in Seoul and Berlin. My works are usually based on the clients, so my work starts with listening to what they have in mind. I try my best to soothe one’s heart. It could be the film director’s concept or dancer’s movements, or just an individual’s soul who is sitting in the audience. The latest project I’ve been working on is a film called Broker, directed by my beloved Hirokazu Koreeda. It will be premiered in Cannes this May. Now I’m concentrating on my solo album which contains my own works of music. The idea just started with the inspiration from the CHANEL Next Prize. It gave me a chance to consider the music itself – what I have been dreaming of, but hard to make it real in my life.”

RUNGANO NYONI, FILMMAKER

Rungano is a filmmaker whose feature-length debut, I Am Not a Witch, premiered at Cannes in 2017, was nominated for a Bafta, and won several British Independent Film Awards.

“I have attached the photo of the object that inspires me; it’s my grandmother’s hat, which I inherited when she passed away. She was an inspiration. Whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself I wear it to honour her memory and dust myself off and keep going.”

“I’m a filmmaker, born in Lusaka, Zambia, and currently based in Lisbon, Portugal. There’s no specific theme I explore in my films – it varies. So far they tend to take place in Zambia and [explore] themes around womanhood. Perhaps one day when I’ve done enough films, I’ll see a proper pattern. All I can ever ask for is people to take pause and engage in my films in some way, even if they don’t necessarily understand them.

“I’m working on my second feature film which I’m shooting in Zambia later this year. The truest thing I can say [about the CHANEL Next Prize] is it’s just very surreal. It’s literally given me the opportunity to pursue my own project under my own terms – that’s a rare gift and it’s mind-blowing in all honesty.”

MARLENE MONTEIRO FREITAS, DANCER AND CHOREOGRAPHER

Marlene is a dancer and choreographer whose Carnival-inspired work has drawn global acclaim, including the Silver Lion for Dance at the Venice Biennale (2018) and the prize for Best International Performance by Les Prémis de la Critica d’Arts Escèniques of Barcelona (2020).

“This photo was taken right after the prémiere of MAL, in Kampnagel. [Marlene] likes this photo very much because it showed the energy post show.”

I was born in Sal and raised in Mindelo, two islands of the Cape Verde archipelago. In order to study dance, at 18 years old, I moved to Lisbon and later to Belgium. I am currently based in Lisbon, where my production office, P.OR.K, is also based, yet I do not have a work space of my own.

“As a freelance artist, in a post-pandemic context, from the field of contemporary dance, I am very grateful for such recognition. After such a tiring period, with the need of rescheduling so much and so many cancellations, it is a great opportunity to put all of this in perspective and embark on fresh projects – in due course, as currently I am working on projects decided before and during the pandemic, prior to the Prize.”

“I consider my work choreography – when delivered as an installation, an object, or another form, choreographic thinking is always behind my choices. It is like a digestive process, where different materials are selected, chewed, swallowed, mixed, transformed, leading to the constitution of a specific matter with its own characteristics, density, colour, and smell, which will be expelled. What we share with the public is this specific matter.

“There are ideas that are transversal to my work, such as transformation, hybridism, impureness, and the simultaneity and dialogue between elements that are usually foreign or contradictory to each other. To me this generates energy, movement, and from the combination of these, hopefully something unexpected, foreign, or partially foreign to me may emerge.”

BOTIS SEVA, DANCER AND CHOREOGRAPHER

Botis is a dancer, choreographer, and director, whose hip hop productions have won international awards, including an Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production (2019), for BLKDOG

“In my home with a baby nappy on my shoulder – sometimes creative ideas can come from anywhere. Most of the ideas I create come from this place, my home.”

My dad is from Congo, my mum is from Angola. I was born in Enfield, raised mainly in Dagenham, and now I am based in Kingston. I would describe myself as a freeform experimentalist. I am inspired by visual imagery from an array of sources, eras, art forms, and I use my background in hip hop dance as the basis of my practice. I come from a faith-based background, so I would say my artistic practice also comes from God and therefore, spiritual connection for me is very important.

“A lot of what I work with or against, is based on what I’ve witnessed growing up. I’m strongly against any form of oppression, especially against people of colour, so this always seems to manifest itself. I create work that mainly speaks about people who feel forgotten in this society: the children who grow up in tough environments; the parents raising families by themselves; the individual who is just struggling with their mental health. During the pandemic I spent a lot of time with my family, and this became one of my main sources of inspiration, to learn from the people I love and use this as fuel.

“Winning the CHANEL Next Prize is a true blessing. I feel humbled to be given the opportunity to just explore what’s in my head without the pressure and expectation of delivering to a deadline! These opportunities don’t always come around for people like me! I feel honoured that I can inspire other young creatives who don’t feel it’s possible coming from where we grew up to ‘succeed’, let alone in the arts. I am truly embracing this moment, as I know it won’t come around again.”

MARIE SCHLEEF, THEATRE DIRECTOR

Marie Schleef is a theatre director known for her seven-and-a-half-hour performance piece NAME HER. In Search of Women+ (2020), and her new, hour-long silent piece The Story of an Hour (2022).

This is me with a little reliquary. Since my first trip to Sicily, a couple of years ago, I started collecting relicts of female martyrs. Their histories and roles within the Catholic religion have become a huge source of inspiration to me.”

“I am a theatre director based in Berlin’ one could also call me more broadly a theatre practitioner. In a nutshell I would say that I develop an idea for the stage and then find a group of people to make it come to life with. My work focuses on the non-existing female theatre canon. I say non-existing because women tend to often be regarded as ‘exceptional individuals’ among a pool of famous and successful men, rather than being part of their own female tradition an line, or part of the canon overall. I focus on who wrote the text and who has not been staged yet.

“I want people to leave my work and ask themselves why they know so few women, why they did not study them in school. I want people to be curious, have a moment that catches them off-guard, and start to create their own female canon.

“The last project I worked on was the first-time staging of Kate Chopin’s short fictional work The Story of an Hour, dating from 1894. The storyline was merged with themes from The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The play can be defined as something I call a ‘silent piece’, meaning it is void of any spoken language – everything is told through movement and overarching supertitles.

“The CHANEL Next Prize means a lot. First of all, it makes me feel that my passion and artistic drive get to be seen and regarded as significant. It gives me hope. Makes me feel that I am doing and pursuing work that other consider to be important and want to see more of. It is such an honour and encourages me to continue taking risks, creating bold and brave work.”

KEIKEN, ARTIST COLLECTIVE

Keiken is an artist collective, co-founded by Tanya Cruz, Hana Omori, and Isabel Ramos, best known for its creation of speculative worlds through virtual and augmented reality.

Tanny:  ”This is angel baby Chamaca, aka Chami.”

Hana: ”These are my Kokeshi dolls. In my family home in Japan there is a room full of them as my Ojīchan buys a Kokeshi doll where ever he goes somewhere new in Japan.”

Issy: “This is queen Peena, my lovely flatmate Louise’s cat. Whenever we are on call Chami and Peena are meowing lots demanding our attention.”

“We all grew up in the UK and are part British, however have diasporic roots. Tanny is half Mexican, Hana is half Japanese, and Isabel has Spanish and Jewish roots. We all grew up very connected to nature and at uni we became friends and decided that we should collaborate. That’s when Keiken was formed. Hana and Isabel are based in London and Tanny in Berlin. Soon Tanny is going to move back to London as we’ll share a studio at Somerset House together for the first time!

“Keiken means experience in Japanese and it really underpins our practice as we create immersive experiences as well as exploring the lived experience and nature of consciousness. We are an art collective so our collaboration with each other is very fluid and intertwined. We have always worked with many other creatives such as dancers, designers, technologists and musicians. 

“For many years now we have been exploring the Metaverse to simulate new structures and ways of existing and to test drive possible futures. We like to think about it as if we are becoming the architects and collaborators of the future. Our metaverse has no borders and bodies shift allowing multiple identities and consciousness. In the Metaverse your body and sensory perception could be completely different, malleable and beyond what you could possibly imagine. We want to pierce our perceptions of reality and defy all that we know.

“We are very grateful and honoured to have won the CHANEL Next Prize. It was such a surprise to us when we received the news and it will really support us to take our projects to a larger, more ambitious scale. As mentioned we’ll be sharing a studio together for the first time since graduating six years ago and the support from the prize has enabled this to happen. It’s a really important time for us to be working as a three, side by side, IRL.”

LUAL MAYEN, GAME DESIGNER

Lual Mayen is a self-taught game designer known for creating the company Junub Games, and its debut video game, Salaam.

In this picture I am seated in the home office in Washington DC and working on my game, and also doing a presentation to a class on why video games are great tools to bring the global communities together.”

“I’m from South Sudan, and I’m based right now in Washington, DC. I remember when I was growing up in a refugee camp in Uganda, I had this vision of trying to use the power of games to be able to bring the global communities together. That’s where I was thinking ‘OK, how can I use those games? And how can I create a game?’ Because the process of creating a game is really long. More than just being an artist, you have to like understand, what is the game flow? What is the game design? How do you actually bring something that you envision into life?

“The first game I played was Grand Theft Auto, and the process of that inspired me to think, ‘Oh, wow, like, can I use game for education? Can I use game to help people understand empathy?’ I always tell people that the game that I’m working on, Salaam, actually put a player in the shoes of a refugee, who is fleeing their country to find a peaceful environment. 

“Winning the CHANEL Next Prize means a lot to me as a creator, as somebody that really started something from scratch. I never dreamt of this moment, I never even thought that I would be able to finish a project. The prize means that world is actually understanding the power of creation, something that started a long time ago, and it’s not something that is going to end. As young people, we always have new solutions for everything – artists, and filmmakers, and video game designers, people that are really doing something that means the world to them.”

WANG BING, FILMMAKER

Wang Bing is a filmmaker whose epic documentaries, including Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2002), Mrs. Fang (2017), and Dead Souls (2018), have earned international acclaim.

“This photo (of the ruins) travels through time and space, making me feel uneasy about the future.”

“I’m from Shanxi province, Xian City. Now I’m living in Beijing and Paris. I like artworks that are independent and full of creativity. Being direct and authentic are the principal characters in my works. When I shoot a documentary, all the stories and characters are gradually formed as the shoot goes on. That is to say, life itself helps me shape my film, and everything is unknown.”

“I normally shoot people or stories I know for my films, or places I’m familiar with, so when I shoot I feel close to who I’m shooting, and the cameras can be quite close to them. Therefore, there is no distance between a film and its audience. I’m now finishing off a documentary’s post-production work in Paris. I shot this a few years ago. It’s about normal people living in the lower reaches of the Changjiang River.

“I’m very excited to win this prize. A lot of people who didn’t know my works have started to notice me. It’s an encouragement to me. I hope that everyone can still have opportunities to watch the most primitive movie format – documentaries. Documentaries are still an effective bridge to help people understand each other from the bottom of their hearts.”

PRECIOUS OKOYOMON, POET AND ARTIST

Precious Okoyomon is a visual artist and poet known for their ambitious installations, queer cooking collective Spiral Theory Test Kitchen, and poetry books such as the forthcoming But Did U Die? (2022).

Wake up and choose love, lately been living in Arles, France, spending long days in my studio drawing and making sculptures with my bby toy poodle Gravity.”

“I’m from Lagos, Nigeria, my family moved to Ohio when I was 11. My artistic practice is a spiral of endlessly entangled love. Sometimes it’s writing a poem, sometimes it’s cooking a meal for people I love, and then the poem becomes an installation, becomes a sculpture, a prayer for the sky. I try not to explore themes or ideas but to make things out of things: flesh, dirt, life, sound. It’s very basic in a way. Right now, I am actually finalising a book of poems, But Did U Die?, that has been with me for the past four year but is just now finally going to come out later this year. 

“Winning this prize has been so amazing for me. I get to build my studio and work on projects I have wanted to be able to work on for so long. It’s so freeing to dream freely with resources that aren’t tied to anything other than what you can imagine with them.

“In all my installations I endeavour to make portals. In Venice, I’m working with sugarcane for the first time, and continuing an ongoing collaboration I have with the vine kudzu. The piece is very much inspired by Edouard Glissant’s Monsieur Toussaint, an incredible play. The whole installation is set to a musical composition arranged by Gio Escobar, one of my favourite musicians. I’m excited about this work; in a way it takes all of these different threads from my earlier exhibitions and puts them in proximity to each other for the first time.”

EDUARDO WILLIAMS, FILMMAKER

Eduardo Williams is an experimental filmmaker and artist whose first feature film, The Human Surge (2016), won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival, amid broader critical acclaim.

“I’m speaking with Sharika Navamani and Meera Nadarasa, during the shooting of The Human Surge 3 in the Peruvian Amazonia. They came from Sri Lanka, where we shot the first part of the film.”

“I’m from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’m not based anywhere, but I could say Athens or Paris. I make films. I explore ideas that I can only share as images or sounds, where words are just one more element among others. In words, I could say: advancing through uncertainty, void and fantasy as a way of getting to new possible realities. Mystery and curiosity as the fuel to keep on going. Creating relations between places and people that are not connected so often.

“I’m working on a feature film called The Human Surge 3, show in Sri Lanka, Peru, and possibly Taiwan. Queer communities of the world decide to choose what they do with their time and go together through mystery and uncertainty to the fantastic possibilities of reality. I’m working on another video that might be called ‘the longest gif’. Some video loops that drown in the water. They travel from the structures of the dark city, inside the human body, and I’ll think what happens afterwards while I work on the first parts.

“The CHANEL Next Prize means getting some relief from money-related problems while I think about my work. Feeling support for my work coming from new people and places gives me energy to keep on going, and curiosity to know or perceive what they thought or felt about my work.

“I try to support the ideas I think should grow in the society I know, and I’m always attentive not to reproduce any of the ideas that I think damage the world. I’m very interested in my work as being able to generate many different experiences and ideas, even the ones I haven’t thought about before. I’m very happy when people from different ages, continents, and experiences tell me what they felt or thought during my films and they’re so different from each other.”