Since its inception in 1984, The Turner Prize has gained notoriety for championing the kind of art that drives traditionalists up the wall. This prize, open only to British artists under the age of 50, famously rewarded Tracey Emin’s My Bed and Chris Ofili’s infamous elephant dung paintings.
As you might imagine, over the years the artwork showcased has received mixed receptions from public and critics alike. It highlights contemporary art’s overall reputation – you either love it or hate it. Still, it works for the Turner and we can all assume that this year will be no different.
This year’s nominees are Paul Noble, Luke Fowler, Elizabeth Price and Spartacus Chetwynd. All differ in their chosen forms of media, yet they all maintain a commentary on the way things are perceived in our modern society.
Londoner, Paul Noble opens the show with his huge but intricate drawings, which he creates using only graphite pencils. His works, featuring fictional creation Nobson Newtown, are reminiscent of a utopian or even dystopian fantasy. The futuristic, regimented landscape seen in works such as ‘Paul’s Palace’ either portrays Noble’s idealist or is a satirical comment on society’s dependence on manufactured goods. Nevertheless, nature is yet again overshadowed by the material world.
Showcasing his third film on the Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing, All Divided Selves, Luke Fowler explores the human mind and how society affects it. His thought-provoking documentary challenges our perception of what is normal and sane. But at 90 minutes long, I would advise that unless you are fresh from a good night’s sleep, prepare yourself to view only sparse segments.
Elizabeth Price’s 20-minute film,Woolworths Choir Of 1979,is perhaps more bearable – but just as mentally exhausting.
The documentary recounts the tragedy of a fire in the Manchester branch of Woolworths, where 10 people died. Split into three sections, the film moves suddenly from old pop videos into the desperate waving of trapped workers. The slogan ‘we are chorus’ and a sharp clicking sound are prevalent throughout, depicting human nature – we are all influenced by each other. Price toys with the audience’s emotions and instincts, so that even at the end of the haunting performance, a countdown rushes us to the exit.
Spartacus Chetwynd’s performance art deals with issues such as decision-making and social responsibility, aiming to empower the audience in her play, Odd Man Out. She blurs the boundaries of spectator and participant, providing a visual performance with carnival-like characters.The room it is staged in is the epitome of bizarre, with large inflatable objects and walls covered in old literature. The whole experience is surreal, yet I found the piece uninspiring.
The Turner Prize has been dominated by conceptual themes and ideologies. It seems in modern art, shock factor is everything. But sometimes that can come at the expense of substance.
Scepticism aside, The Turner Prize’s popularity is evident from its media coverage and public support – it will always be the Olympics of British Art.
I can safely say that the nominees have all ticked the fantastically weird check box. From howling psychiatric patients to dancing tree-people, whether you love it or hate it – you’re spoilt for choice. Even in the more traditional mediums, artists such as Noble still captivate our curiosity.
So who will win? Who deserves it most? I mean, there is £25,000 at stake here.
Elizabeth Price is a sure fire winner in my eyes. Her disorientating film teeters on a fine line between complete brilliance and a dumb-founded attempt at being provocative. The brash rawness of the piece was a risky choice for her, yet she stuck with being inventive rather than a people-pleaser.
However, it seems the public has the more conventional Paul Noble tipped to win. His work has immediate visual appeal. The effort and artistic skill is evident in his work – we do not have to dissect double meanings to appreciate his work.
The winner will be announced on Monday 3 December 2012 during a live broadcast by Channel 4.