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VISUAL ARTS AWARDS 2008 RECIPIENTS

Award for Outstanding Achievement as an Artist

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller
Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have been practicing artists, singly and in tandem, since the 1980s. In recent years their collaborative multimedia practice has been celebrated around the world and they have generated much excitement and pride as ambassadors for Canadian contemporary art.

Born in 1957 in Brussels, Ontario, Janet Cardiff studied at Queen's University and the University of Alberta where she earned a master's degree in Visual Arts in 1983. Her experimental multimedia works have included guided audio and video "walks" that lead the participants through a "virtual journey" using recorded voices and sounds, sometimes combined with images, delivered via a headset or the screen of a camcorder. In 1982 she married fellow artist George Bures Miller (born in 1960 in Vegreville, Alberta) while he was studying at the Ontario College of Art.

For over a decade the couple lived and worked in Lethbridge, Alberta, where they refined their art and came to artistic maturity. In the nineties, Cardiff was an Associate Professor of art at the University of Lethbridge where she still retains the title of Adjunct Professor. The artists currently live and work in Grindrod, British Columbia and Berlin, Germany.

In 2001 Cardiff and Miller became the first Canadian artists to win the prestigious Venice Biennale Special Award, as well as the Benesse Prize, for their installation The Paradise Institute, a 16-seat movie theatre where viewers watch a mystery film and become entangled as witnesses to a possible crime played out in the audience and on the screen. In the same year Cardiff 's solo work Forty-Part Motet was awarded the Millennium Prize by the National Gallery of Canada. Incorporating sculpture and sound, this installation consists of forty separately recorded choir voices played back through a multitude of speakers, thus allowing the gallery visitor to experience choral music from the inside. The piece was so well received by the public that the National Gallery extended the exhibition by several months and the installation has been circulating internationally ever since.

Cardiff and Miller have seen their work presented in some of the most important contemporary art venues in the world, including the Carnegie International (Pittsburgh), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Tate Modern (London), and the São Paulo, Istanbul, Sydney and Venice Biennals. Recent works by the team include The Secret Hotel (2005), Opera for a Small Room (2005), The Killing Machine (2007), and A Murder of Crows (2008), which was one of the highlights of the 2008 Sydney Biennale. A solo exhibition of their work was also presented at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, as well as Modern Art Oxford (UK), in 2008.

In recommending Cardiff and Miller for the Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award, the jury highlighted the international impact of their artistic practice: "Since the 1990s, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have made engaging, challenging installation works that have contributed enormously to the evolution of contemporary art. Their poetic, multifaceted exhibitions have moved and influenced a number of generations of art makers across Canada and throughout the world. Their intelligent, thoughtful and emotionally moving art embraces our human frailty and vulnerability through a mix of genres: film noir, sci-fi thriller and experimental film. Their unique use of binaural "surround sound" and haunting music creates enchanting immersive experiences. Cardiff and Miller draw upon boundless numbers of disciplines to weave together stories that confront the mysteries of the heart, the soul and the workings of the human mind."

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