in Frieze London , News | 03 JUL 24

Lawrence Lek Announced as Winner of the Frieze London 2024 Artist Award

The new commission follows a cyborg therapist created to save other AI from the brink of self-destruction

in Frieze London , News | 03 JUL 24

London-based artist and filmmaker Lawrence Lek has been announced as the recipient of the 2024 Artist Award at Frieze London. The award – in partnership with Forma – gives an early- or mid-career artist the opportunity to realize an ambitious new commission at Frieze London. Previous recipients include Adham Faramawy (2023), Abbas Zahedi (2022), Sung Tieu (2021), Alberta Whittle (2020) and Himali Singh Soin (2019).  

LawrenceLek_Black-Cloud-Highway_Solo-Exhibition_Sadie Coles HQ 2023 Photo-Katie-Morrison
Lawrence Lek, Black Cloud Highway, Sadie Coles HQ, 2023. Photo: Katie Morrison

Lek’s work often addresses the moral dilemmas around AI while exploring the creative potential of digital worldbuilding, shot through with dark, absurdist humour (his 2024 work Empty Rider features the televised trial of a self-driving car following a botched kidnapping). For the first time, this year’s Artist Awards in Seoul and London are responding to the same brief, with both Choi Goen, winner of the Frieze Seoul Artist Award, and Lek considering advanced technologies in their work. Choi’s project examines the materiality of redundant and discarded technology, while Lek draws from gaming to mine the social, spiritual and emotional impact of artificial intelligence.

Lawrence Lek, ‘NOX’, LAS Art Foundation Berlin, 2023. Photo: Andrea Rossetti

A Londoner born in Frankfurt of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Lek addresses global complexities – real and virtual – in his work. His multimedia installation for the Artist Award commission, Guanyin: Confessions of a Former Carebot, combines narrative worldbuilding and mechanical sculpture in a gaming environment, where players gradually uncover the story of the eponymous ‘carebot’: a cyborg therapist developed to talk other AI out of self-destruction.

The audience follows Guanyin (Iiterally, ‘the one who listens’, named after the Buddhist goddess of mercy) as she examines Vanguard, the self-driving car from Empty RiderHaunting and meditative, the project draws inspiration from ‘walking simulators’ – video games in which players explore an environment. On Lek’s soundtrack, Guanyin’s voice accompanies each player’s journey, recounting journal entries, company reports and messages to her nonhuman patient.

A jury of industry professionals selected Lek’s proposal, including Canan Batur (curator and researcher) and Miriam Zulfiqar (Director, Artangel), alongside Eva Langret (Director, Frieze London) and Chris Rawcliffe (Artistic Director, Forma).

Rawcliffe said of the award: ‘Lawrence Lek’s practice carries out essential interrogations into the use of AI and its relationship with the human experience. He simultaneously pushes the boundaries of disciplines and crafts worlds that critique the use of new technologies, and I look forward to seeing such an innovative and relevant work realized within the Frieze London fair this year.’ 

‘We eagerly anticipate Lawrence Lek’s commission,’ added Langret, ‘which approaches ideas around the future of AI. As part of our mission to promote artist-centred programming, it is always joy to commission artists who engage with the complex issues of today.’

Further Information 

Frieze London 2024 takes place alongside Frieze Masters from 9 – 13 October 2024 in The Regent’s Park. Both fairs are supported by Global Lead Partner Deutsche Bank, marking over two decades of shared commitment to artistic excellence. 

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Main image: Lawrence Lek, ‘NOX’, LAS Art Foundation Berlin, 2023. Photo: Andrea Rossetti