Last night, lying in my sick bed (or sick settee with a furry blanket) I just about managed to watch the Turner Prize 2013 winner announcement on Channel 4. I would have had to have been very poorly not to.
I have been keep a vague eye on the various news items about this year’s Turner Prize: about the fact for the first time in history the prize was to be presented in Northern Ireland, about the fact that the exhibition was to be held in Londonderry (city of culture 2013) and about the four nominated artworks (especially the fascinating weeing life model sculpture).
I must admit I thought (and hoped) that David Shrigley‘s weeing life model sculpture would win. It appeals to my quirky side. It is full of contradictions and humour. The model is so badly proportioned and comic looking that any attempt to draw him accurately produces a badly proportioned and comic result. It is a gentle fun-poke at life art and art school and in a way attempts to free the potential artist from the pressures of trying to draw accurately. This piece is interactive because people are invited to take part in the life drawing class and their work is displayed as part of the exhibition. It is an invitation for anyone to draw. It is a celebration of drawing for drawing’s sake, which I like very much. Everyone should draw.
The other nominees included Lynette Yiadom-Boakye for her paintings of part-imaginary and part-real people which ask questions about how we read meaning into images and Tino Sehgal for his performance work which investigates the exchange between people, the artwork being a moment of philosophical debate.
The final nominee, Prouvost, won for her video / installation piece ‘Wantee’, which takes the audience on a search for her fictional grandfather. Even though I had hoped that David Shrigley would win, on further reflection I see why Laure Prouvost was chosen as winner. Her work (without actually having seen it myself) is said to be engaging and unique in its mixing of video and installation, creating a way for audience to involve themselves in an artwork and be immersed in it without the whole experience being twee and boringly ‘contemporary’.
‘Wantee’ explores the lasting legacy of artist Kurt Schwitters through this fictional grandfather, who Prouvost imagined to be a conceptual artist and one of Schwitters’s close friends. The name of the work derives from a phrase used by one of Schwitters’s companions: “Want tea?”. Prouvost seems to have an unique approach to filmmaking, which she mixes with atmospheric installations. She uses the technique of story telling, sharp cuts, montage and clever misuse of language to draw the audience in and keep a pace.
The BBC’s arts editor, Will Gompertz, describes her work thus: ‘Her intention is to present work designed to confuse because she believes misunderstanding makes us use our imagination more. That in itself is an interesting thought.’ I agree. As Prouvost herself says: ‘I love the idea that everyone creates their own vision of everything you see.’ She wonders whether this idea came to her from her experiences of being a French woman living in a foreign country. I can relate to that as I lived in Japan for two years and when in those sorts of circumstances, you do construct your own version of reality based on what you see and what you can understand (which is very little if you begin knowing hardly anything about the language or culture). The longer you are in that culture you come to understand more and the picture morphs into something else. This is a very interesting concept. It can be applied to lots of things from this scenario to reading books, watching films and interacting with people. You can never say with conviction what is the truth from what you see. And your response may differ with time.
It’s a shame I can’t see any of these works for myself. If only I had a TARDIS.
BBC News, ‘Turner Prize 2013: Laura Prouvost wins £25,000 prize’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-25175225 [last accessed 3 December 2013]
Tate ‘Turner 2013’ http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/other-venues-ebrington/exhibition/turner-prize-2013 [last accessed 3 December 2013]