Key Points:

Aucklander Dane Mitchell is the first New Zealand artist to be awarded a one-year residency at the international DAAD artists-in-Berlin programme.

The DAAD, or German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst), is regarded as one of the most prestigious cultural exchange programmes in the world. It was first set up by the Ford Foundation in 1962, a year after the rise of the Berlin Wall, with the DAAD taking over in 1966.

The DAAD awards 15-20 residencies each year in the fields of literature, music, film and visual arts. Previous recipients include composers John Cage and Arvo Part, film-maker Jim Jarmusch, poet W.H. Auden, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides, Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz and writer Susan Sontag.

In the visual arts category, Mitchell will be following in the footsteps of heavyweights like Damien Hirst, On Kawara, Bridget Riley, Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whiteread. Although Mitchell is the first New Zealand visual artist to be accepted, writers James McNeish, Philip Temple and Hone Tuwhare completed DAAD residencies in the 1980s.

Mitchell, 31, said the news he'd been accepted for the Berlin residency, which he starts in February, made him feel "elated, a bit shocked, I'm still reeling at the moment". He did not apply for the residency but was selected by a jury.

"There is no application process in the visual arts field," he explains. "In film, literature and music they are application-based but, for visual arts, they have a jury and select from presentations made by a group of curators from across the world."

Danae Mossman, the former director-curator of the Physics Room in Christchurch and the co-curator of Scape Biennial in the same city later this year, presented Mitchell's merits to the jury. Mossman herself was a DAAD resident in Berlin in 2006.

"She got in touch to say she'd been asked to do this presentation and asked if I'd be interested" says Mitchell, who graduated in 1998 with a degree from the former AIT ASA School of Arts, which was later absorbed into the AUT campus. "She needed to know if I would be available because it's a year of my life. I thought it would be a terribly long shot given the status of the programme."

Before he goes to Berlin, Mitchell has a busy year of travel ahead of him. In June, he will take part in the Art Statements section of Art39Basel in Switzerland, "a section seen as a platform for young emerging artists", a four-person project at Galerie Triangulo in Sao Paulo in September and a residency at Gasworks in south London from October to December.

Aside from being represented by Starkwhite in Auckland, Mitchell has exhibited with A Gentil Carioca in Rio de Janeiro for the past four years.

Mitchell, who studied at AIT's sculpture department, says his work is hard to pin down. "I like to work in a responsive way. I work conceptually, is probably the easiest way to describe it. I work from an idea as a central point. I draw, make photographs, make objects, all kinds of things. Barricades [his show at Starkwhite last year] started with a collection of images of barricades.

"I've also done work with dust, an archive of dust that is still ongoing really. Being a full-time renter of houses, it's amazing how some houses accrue more dust than others."

He may not have to worry about dust when he's in Berlin. The residency includes airfares, a studio, a wage for a year - and a serviced apartment.