Virtual World created from our digital fingerprints commissioned for the £5,000 Aspen Online Art Award 2016

London-based artist and designer Matilda Skelton Mace has been announced as the winner of the Aspen Online Art Award 2016 and will create a virtual world based on the unique digital ‘fingerprints’ of visitors to the site.

Drawing on the phenomenon of ‘Sky Islands’ – mountains with unique flora and fauna caused by climatic isolation from the surrounding lowland – users’ metadata are used to create particular landforms with their own plants and weather systems.

Visitors with matching characteristics (for example using the same hardware or operating system) generate landforms in a similar location to eventually build up a mountain range corresponding to correlations in metadata. Their weather and plant life reflects the geographical location of the user.

Visitors can explore this expanding world and a visual representation of metadata profiling emerges, with its implications for anonymity rights and freedom of expression.

Launched in 2014 by Aspen Insurance Holdings in association with the Contemporary Art Society, the Aspen Online Art Award is the first of its kind in the UK. The judges, who included Attilia Fattori Franchini, Curator, and the Aspen Art Committee, selected Skelton Mace from a shortlist of seven artists to win a commissioning prize of £5,000 and the opportunity to create a new online-based work for Aspen’s renowned art collection.

Attilia Fattori Franchini said: “This award is a fantastic opportunity for an emerging artist and the strength of Matilda’s proposal shows that she is one to watch. It will also sit particularly well within Aspen’s collection as her ideas around data privacy and cyber risk are particularly pertinent to our contemporary culture.”

Lanny Walker, Art Consultant at the Contemporary Art Society, said: “Matilda’s artwork explores many themes relevant to current debates within contemporary art and beyond, where identity, data privacy and our virtual footprint are continuous concerns. In this she follows in the footsteps of artists including Hito Steyerl, Oliver Laric and Heath Bunting, who touch upon these issues in their own practices.”

Aspen’s involvement with the prize and with online art, a rapidly emerging field within contemporary art, represents Aspen’s commitment to cutting-edge creative practice. The award also reflects the Contemporary Art Society’s mission to identify and support emerging artists in the UK and to provide a platform to showcase important new work for the benefit of audiences across the country.

For more information on the award, and to view the work of previous winners, visit


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