Various recurring and permanent projects form an important part of the HEK’s programme. These include the Pax Art Awards for media art in Switzerland – held annually in collaboration with the Art Foundation Pax since 2018. As well as the online activities of HEK Net Works, a series commissioned works launched in 2020, which usually take place on the HEK’s social media channels or website. Around the HEK’s building, one can discover numerous Kunst-am-Bau (art-in-architecture) projects.
Temporally limited series include the net_based awards, held in collaboration with the art magazine Kunstbulletin from 2016 to 2018, in support of artistic projects on the internet. In 2021, during the pandemic, the Net Encounters series enabled an exchange and interaction between artists and the public in the form of online performances or transactions, when on site interaction at the HEK was impossible.
Pax Art Awards
The annual Pax Art Awards have been held in collaboration with the Art Foundation Pax since 2018. The prizes honour and promote the media-specific practices of Swiss artists whose works employ digital technologies or reflect on their effects on people and society.
Every year Pax Art Awards present three prizes:
The main prize of CHF 30,000 is dedicated to an established artist or group of artists for their – past, present and future – contribution to the Swiss media art scene. Two further prizes go to young, up-and-coming media artists to support the development of their work. The prize money consists of production funding and the purchase of a work for the Art Foundation Pax. An exhibition at the HEK in the following year honours the prizewinners, presenting new works as well as those works acquired for the Art Foundation Pax collection.
Artists do not actively apply to participate, but are nominated and selected in the awards process by an alternating jury of experts.
Current members of the Pax Art Awards jury:
Stefanie Marlene Wenger, Art historian and Curator, Bern
Carmen Weisskopf, Artist, Zurich / Berlin
Luc Meier, Director LaBecque Résidence d’artistes, La Tour-de-Peilz
Sabine Himmelsbach, Director HEK (House of Electronic Arts), Basel
Jury seats and voting rights are also held by members of the board of Art Foundation Pax:
Nicolas C. Bopp, President, Art Foundation Pax, Basel
Fausto De Lorenzo, De Lorenzo Art and Museum Management & Consulting GmbH, Basel
HEK Net Works
In March 2020, HEK launched the HEK Net Works project series, inviting artists to create net-based projects specifically for HEK's digital channels. They are to occupy the digital space in a way that corresponds to their artistic practice.
The series began on a weekly basis during the Covid 19-caused initial lockdown in March 2020 and has continued with a monthly feature since the summer of 2020.
The pandemic-related closure of museums worldwide weakened the already precarious situation of artists who lack a regular income. With this initiative, HEK supported the work of artists who create network-based projects. In the meantime, the series has established itself as an integral part of HeK's online activities.
The Net Encounters project series opened a platform for new internet-based formats of direct exchange between artists and audiences through online artworks commissioned by the HEK. Its aim was to create a positive reaction to the pandemic by employing the artists to share their knowledge and know-how in an innovative form and nurture relationships between themselves and the public.
With the implementation of strict social distancing rules during the pandemic, the internet’s role as a networking tool rapidly gained prominence, which also drew new attention to net-based art. The HEK’s Net Encounters invited artists to devise micro-performances or transactions to facilitate new forms of connection – bridging the distance. The aim was also to initiate new relationships between the public and artists, with the HEK in the role of mediator. Encounters took place through artworks or as a transfer of knowledge.
Micro-performances focused on the direct encountering an artistic work. These were either live performances in analogue locations made accessible via digital tools or online performances that took place on screen, both of which put the spotlight on the live experience of a work. Some of the works took the form of transactions, where encounters took place as an exchange of content.
The programme’s focus was on the experimentation with new formats of direct exchange. Artists The critical perspective artists take on the world, often let us see what we believe to know from a new angle. May artists open our eyes and senses to new inspiration and challenges!
The series Net Encounters took place from January to June 2021, with the presentation of a new project every month. Participating artists: Andreas Gysin & Sidi Vanetti, Rita Hajj, Lauren Huret, Till Langschied, Ceylan Oztruk and Sarina Scheidegger.
Net Encounters was generously supported by the Swiss cultural foundation Pro Helvetia.
From 2016 to 2018, the net_based awards were held in partnership between the HEK and the Swiss art magazine Kunstbulletin. The prize of CHF 10,000 honoured and promoted an artistic practice on the internet. The prize drew attention to the internet as a platform for artistic activities and made innovative, net-based and internet-inspired projects accessible to a wider audience.
Each year, the prize received numerous applications. A jury of experts selected a shortlist of ten projects, which were made public via the HEK and Kunstbulletin websites. From this shortlist, the jury selected the winners of the main prize. The public were also able to vote for the work to receive their public choice award.
The prize was endowed with CHF 10,000, which was sponsored by the non-profit Symphasis Foundation and limited to three years.
Art in architecture
The HEK’s taking up permanent residence in its own building at Freilager-Platz in November 2014 enabled the subsequent realisation of several Kunst-am-Bau (art-in-architecture) projects in and around the museum, which are presented here.