Viewing single post of blog Absurdity without art

OK, so this is a bit of a last minute offering but I thought I’d throw my pennies worth into the ring. See also a-n’s review of this years Turner Prize.

Whilst in London I went to see the curators tour of this years Turner Prize Nominee exhibition, at the Tate Britain. After hanging around in the Manton entrance lobby after hours (which was a bit weird) we were introduced to Linsey Young, the new slightly edgy girl who replaced the last curator who’d been in post for 16 years. Young introduced the show sticking to her script, outlining the show and it’s ethos, which is to engage with the best of British contemporary art in each given year, according to a panel of 4 judges who are sent out to tour the world to see art shows and bring back their finding. The company of judges: Michelle Cotton, Tamsin Dillon, Beatrix Ruf and Simon Wallis are chaired in meetings by Alex Farquharson (the Director of Tate Britain) who has no say in the winner (unless it is a draw, when they get the casting vote).

This year the judges came back with the requisite four artists, three sculptors and an installation photographer. Each artist is given identical floor space and carte-blanche to hang and display their work, Young provides assistance to the artists fulfilling every whim and desire.


Helen Marten

Just nominated for the inaugural Hepworth Prize for Sculpture she presented at the 56th Venice Biennale, and has had solo shows in New York and London (which is still ongoing at the Serpentine Museum).

Her work consists of sculpture and writing, an assemblage of found objects, depicting what she terms as ‘slippages in time’. Each piece has a constructed narrative such as the first shown here, which Young describes as a scientist workbench full of exhibits and odd ephemera. Marten’s process starts with extensive drawings and design work, prior to the physical making stage. Each sculpture is packed with motifs and props such as lungs, snake skins, shoe insoles, sections of pipework, items pinned out, and sliding panels like in a puzzle. Her works represent a different portion of the day, such as during the evening, they take the form of 3D collages and often appear incomplete.

Helen Marten – Tateshots video


Anthea Hamilton

Who was selected for her solo show in New York.

The big arse, the centrefold in all of the tabloids. Young makes it clear that the work is not a bottom or bum, but a butt (an important distinction made due to the works origin, coming from NY). The bum was designed as a doorway for a New York apartment block by a graphic designer, Gaetano Pesce but it was never made. The one at the Tate Britain was made by model creators from 12 sections of foam (due to it’s size it has to be assembled in-situ, and means that it’ll get destroyed at the end of the exhibition when its removed) and was finished by two painters from Madame Tussaud’s. Interestingly it was only later that I realised that the butt doesn’t have an anus, was this self censorship? Or staying true to the original (which was similarly lacking in detail) or just prudishness? Other contemporary artists have gone further, such as Paul McCarthy’s inflatable giant green butt plug which he displayed in Paris, there is Ai Wei Wei’s marble annal sex toys (RA) and Marcel Duchamp’s cast of a females arse (although this has no perceptible gluteal cleft either, but then it is an unpainted bronze cast). However on reflection, maybe Hamilton is just trying to raise a smile with her mooning butt, and not a grimace.

In the same room there is a cloth suit on a hanger, based on a Mossimo design, and cut to Hamilton’s size, in fact all of the clothing Hamilton has made will fit her. A brickwork wallpaper covers the walls, high up in the corner there are two machetes driven into the wall which are draped with unexplained fabrics. There is also a bespoke boot embellished with sponges and corals.

Hamilton divided her space into two rooms, the walls of the second are covered in a mural painted by a collaborating artist (who doesn’t seem to be credited anywhere), and is based on a photo Hamilton took of the London skyline from the Vauxhall bridge one day in June at 3 pm (and reminiscent of ‘The Simpsons’ opening credits). In this space there hangs five chastity belts (although Young mistook them for nappies) with twisted gussets, which are decorated with Hector Guimard’s art deco designs. There is another boot, although Hamilton will not be able to wear this one, since it is made of marble and has no foot hole.

According to Young Hamilton experienced a life changing event, after which (like Proust) she started looking at details, and she noticed the mundane things around her.

There are rice cakes on lights across the dividing line between the two rooms, although Young didn’t know what there purpose was, she said she simply thought that Hamilton like rice cakes.

Anthea Hamilton’s – Tateshots video


Josephine Pryde

Who was nominated for her solo exhibition in San Fransisco

A photographer who juxtaposes her images with objects and sculpture.

As you enter the room to the left Pryde has eight IKEA work tops lent up against the wall, each has a unique sun faded surface created by leaving the worktops in bright sunshine with items placed on top of them with varying densities, this has created abstract indexical traces. Young states that the artworks are transient as they will all eventually fade to white as Pryde has chosen not to fix the decay in any way.

In the middle of the room there is a toy train (complete with NY style graffiti) sat on a section of straight track and completely static. In other locations including Bristol, San Francisco and Berlin  (her home town) the train has moved, allowing visitors to take a seat on top and control the direction of travel. But at the Tate Britain Pryde decided that she did not want the train to be played with in this setting. The truth is, Young told us whilst discussing the IKEA works that Pryde was deeply effected by the BREXIT decision, and it was not only the track dynamics and motion that Pryde changed but also the title, from ‘Lapses in Thinking by the Person I am’ (when it was in San Fransisco August 2015), to ‘’The New Media Express’ (when it was in Berlin June 2016) to ‘The New Media Express in a Temporary Siding (Baby wants to Ride)’ when it was installed in the Tate. I believe that Pryde has put the train in a siding as a protest to the BREXIT vote and what she (and many others) might see as a shutdown of borders and free movement throughout Europe.

On the other walls Pryde has photos of female hands with painted fingernails. In this selection Pryde has only included women’s hands although she has exhibited men’s hands before. Young states that Pryde is asking questions about what it is like to be a photographer in a world in which everyone has a camera. She’s also an empowered female artist asking a question about being such a person in a digitally enabled culture.

Josephine Pryde’s – Tateshots video


Michael Dean

Who was selected for his solo exhibition in London.

According to Young, Dean is the most political artist of the group. He went to a crap school, the worst in England according to OFSTED (in spite of which he later completed a Masters at Goldsmiths). All of his work starts from writing. A while back he was about to become a father for the first time when he was trying to fix a step in his home with cement, by a lucky accident he discovered that he could transpose his writing into the cement, which started his interest in 3D works. A common motif in this work is the representation of four beings, who are his family. Some of these abstract forms appear to me to be referencing a Robert Motherwell painting, ‘At Five in the Afternoon’ (1950). On the floor there is a pile of copper coins that are comparable with shingle on the shoreline, the quantity of cash was exactly £20,436, the amount the government states is the minimum that a family of four need to survive for a year in the UK. Dean then took away one coin, to display an amount below the poverty line.

The cast fists in the room also represent family members, the booklets he has created contain a language the Dean has developed out of street imagery like the hash leaf.

Michael Dean’s – Tateshots video