- Tate Britain
It is that time of year again , the hype, the glory and oh yes the art. Is it worth it? and does the Turner Prize really mean something? these are the sort of questions that arise yearly. The first thing that I encountered as I approached the Tate Britain were The Stuckists handing out anti flyers against it (and The Tate). Are they there to piggyback onto the media attention of the Prize…? I don't even want to start going into that debate. Amusingly they handed a flyer to Nicholas Serota (or an uncanny lookalike) who was passing through.
The first piece of artwork I was confronted with was Goshka Macuga's big spiral glass Deutsche Volk – Deutsche Albeit, a piece that primarily looks at conventions of archiving, exhibition making and museum displays. I instantly couldn't help but think about artwork chosen on the basis that they're 'photogenic; it just looks great on camera'. But one of her sculptures Haus der Frau 1 did amuse me and gave me a strong sense of the topics she was exploring, it reminded me of a large letter holder that at once looked like a bizarre queuing barrier. There was strange modernist feel about the work; of course it was referential to works of this era. I also didn't really see the connection of the Paul Nash and Eileen Agar collages, although I read the blurb and understood that they helped inform her explorations, but I still felt they were disparate to her sculptures and unnecessary somehow, more like a sketchbook reference.
In the adjacent room Cathy Wilke's installation which involves pieces We Are Pro Choice, Non Verbal and Prices, looked like someone's house the morning after a mad party, the familiar scene of leftover food but with the addition of supermarket checkouts. I did not connect with/ respond to any of her symbolic imagery and juxtapositions so I am not able to comment much on this piece. The next rooms were a succession of beautiful quality 16mm films by Runa Islam, the first – CINEMATOGRAPHY was a roving camera that appeared to be filming a studio/ workshop space. The movement of the camera was seemingly illogical yet precise and I wondered about the pattern or logic that it followed. It gave it a sci-fi quality and I felt it opened up the possibility of new meaning being able to be read into the scene (I later learned that Runa was writing her name with the camera). Her other films Be The First To See What You See As You See It and First Day of Spring are equally concise, both are thoughtful and visually stunning in their own way. The former has colour and visuals that remind me of an early Peter Greenway short, and the camera of the latter is slower and smoother – a footage of colourful rickshaws and drivers pensively sitting in a group, in which she highlights the cinematic potentials, and though the scene is inscrutable, it feels just on the verge of breaking into a strong narrative.
Last but not least was Mark Leckey, his Cinema in the Round was a montage of popular animations including The Simpsons and Felix the Cat from 2D to CGI, interspersed with Jeff Koon's highly reflective steel rabbit and the Titanic, in a lecture setting where one was aware and constantly reminded of the theatre room and its audiences. It was an interesting reflection of different dimensions and space that exists and that one occupies, but for some reason the Turner prize context in which it was exhibited confused me. As I read the blurb about the work 'something about the layers and layers of the self', and seeing Leckey's extremely decadent and plush posters for these 'lecture events' (one of them being a special Tate one), suddenly made me wonder if there was not any serious ego massage happening here (both artist and proprietor). I read the catalogue later and the insight given into Leckey's work sounds more reasonable and down to earth. But I still can't help feel that one can also make anything sound justified if one is clever enough.
For me going to this Turner Prize shortlist exhibition, was not about the critique of the artists, who's great, better etc. All of the artists have their own validity and place in the world, but it's the housing of these artists under this super inflated roof, and that it is rumoured to signify you as 'making it' as an artist is what I find disconcerting and of which I am wary of. When I was wondering who would win I wasn't thinking about who's work I liked the best, I was thinking about who the Turner Prize would 'strategically' let win, for example it's mainly female nominees this year they might probably let a female artist win (especially as there has only been about two or three since the prize began in 1984). I am not denouncing the credibility of the Turner Prize completely, but there are certain potential aspects of it that niggles at me – the zoo-like entertainment side of it and it being a complete marketing ploy for the Tate. My unease was not made any better either when on my out I was charged a whopping £2.10 for the smallest cup of hot chocolate that I have ever had.