benandsebastian have been awarded the Finn Juhl prize 2020 by the committee of the Wilhelm Hansen Foundation, which comprises Bjørn Bredal (chairman), Bente Lund Poulsen, Katrine Gislinge, Steffen Aarfing and Karen-Maria Bille. The Finn Juhl Prize was established by the Danish designer’s wife, Hanne Wilhelm Hansen, in his memory.

At the ceremony, Steffen Aarfing gave the following speech:

“Seen from my standpoint, your insistence on framing and packing our immaterial, or barely palpable, anxiety is a mainstay in your most recent work.

 You unpack nothing before our eyes, but it is a nothingness that stares back at us, bringing our voyeurism into play.  

The enduring fascination in your work is connected to crafting authority and authenticity where none is to be found. Giving fiction substance, calling forth an impression without providing evidence.

 Continuing to insist on the precision of the expression, without the need for an explanation.

 In your “Department of Voids”, it’s about staging doubt, which you do with strong material references.

 You usher in unknown storytelling through a precisely orchestrated patination, which seduces us into seeing the object’s life history exactly in the way you wish us to see it.  The materials speak directly to us.

 Walter Benjamin once wrote about artworks’ capacity to look back at us: to stroll behind a person, who turns around on sensing the gaze at the back of their neck.

 Your works encourage us, by virtue of their highly crafted quality, into deeper scrutiny. And in this scrutiny lies the imminent risk, or opportunity, that the works gaze back at us.

 In other works, such as the monster furniture piece “The Office”, meaninglessness is materialised and catalogued in an exquisite piece of craftsmanship. At first glance a desk belonging to the bureaucracy of the recent past, on closer examination a Kafkaesque universe of apparent order that leads nowhere. But the supreme fabrication makes it impossible to write off the claim.

 It’s a case of the shivers.

 Your “City of the ReOrientated”, exhibited at the Designmuseum Denmark, is an enticing miniature world, where wood and plaster are both highly materially present, but also transport us into other scales, where we allow ourselves to be seduced up small staircases around a delicate, almost neural, chaos.

 An endless universe, had it not been sharply sliced on all sides, like an anatomical specimen. Exhibited hanging, like a compelling Gulliver’s universe, weightless in its vitrine.

 Your works are so fascinatingly created, that one has to constantly return in order to confirm a suspicion, or simply relive the experience. Like one of the heavyweights of German theatre described as:

 “the difference between a triumphal ‘Ha!’, after having suddenly understood everything, and the cautious ‘aha’, that reveals that we have understood a small scrap of something greater.

 Congratulations on the Finn Juhl Prize, there are also chairs for you – I can’t wait to see what you have lined up for them…