Review: Turner Prize 2014 (EXHIBITION)


Review: Turner Prize 2014 (EXHIBITION)

Here it is. The big one. The prize that (most) people want. The Turner Prize 2014. Exhibition showing at Tate Britain until 4th January. Now, this is my first time actually going to the exhibition, and I’m very glad I had the opportunity to do so.

Now, a little brief history on the Turner Prize:

It’s an annual prize that is named after the painter J. M. W. Turner, which can only be won by a British visual artist under the age of 50. (They also get a pretty little sum of money to go along with the prestige.) It’s quite a big deal on the British art scene.

So who are this year’s nominees?

James Richards,
Tris Vonna-Michell,
Ciara Phillips,
Duncan Campbell.

We’ll make our way through the top of the list down (as this is the order you encounter their works in the exhibition.)

James Richards

Immediately as you enter the exhibition you are facing a flat screen TV displaying images that don’t seem to quite fit together yet have a cohesive element about them. The film viewed contains found and original images that are intuitively edited. (Almost as if he has created a moving collage of clips. Something of note, is the different frames used for the various clips in the video, seems to be about what isn’t on show. The black and white imagery creates a sense of unity, and the chosen framing and actions within the videos feels rather sensual in choice.

(And this is quite bad, but I was a little perplexed on the choice of seating for this video. I mean, it was almost like a sofa, without the back, but the type of cushions made it look like only one person could sit on one at a time, when you could have easily fit two bottoms on one cushion. Now this probably seems trivial, but. And hear me out. But. It really affects how you view the artwork and I probably didn’t stay there for as long as I should have because you feel as if you are standing in the door way, there’s nowhere to sit, so you just move on. Actually, I could write a whole post about the awful choice/ position of seating at this exhibition. Which is something that really should have been taken into consideration, especially considering how the majority of the work on show, was video.)

Anyway. Moving oh so swiftly on.

As you moved away from Richards’ video piece and around the corner, you are surrounded by larger hanging carpets depicting different people. These focused on people who I believe were not necessary famous – my friend informed me they were people at events (who were out of shot) that were important and noted. So again, this theme of focussing on the other.

And lastly, there were some photographs displayed via old projector slides. These didn’t really bring much interest to me, so I can’t say I thought anything about them worth noting. Only way the use of this method of presentation?

Tris Vonna-Michell

Again, Vonna-Michell is another video artist. The primary video contained a lot of irratic repetative speech. The imagery focused on tables, and other imagery that I didn’t think was necessary. It felt as if the speech was more important then what we were watching. Almost felt as if the images were a ploy to get people to sit down and listen as we live in a massive image culture and people’s attention span might not last for very long to listen to a purely sonic piece.

And once more, the position of the long benches for this piece were awful. No matter where you sat you were in someone’s way or someone was in your way (unless you were fortunate enough to sit at the front.)

There was a second piece that was projector slides, that automatically changed. Along with this went a narrative that was spoken through the speakers surrounding the chairs creating a very intimate atmosphere. Now this a feel worked much better than the first piece on display. This piece was very much like story-telling.

Ciara Phillips

Quite honestly, I was a huge fan of this. As you entered the space given to Phillips, it had quite an impression – but I feel like the main reason for this was simply because of of sudden shift of medium. The previous two artists both had video pieces, and both used old projector slides for their pieces and here, we came into brightly lit room (you actually notice how high the ceiling is) and from top to toe the walls are covered in her patterned prints. And very occasionally we get a series of photographs of the artist, all looking the same.

Once you get over the sudden shift in the lighting, and the change of there being no screen, I began to feel as if she was a token vote. To change up the choice of the type of artist that they are promoting. Yet this piece still managed to have a sonic element to it. It simply read out words listed. It felt very uninspired and I did just have to leave.

Duncan Campbell

Now you’ve guessed it. It’s another video artist! (Really, all I can say is what is the Tate thinking? But we won’t get into that now, I’ll moan about that later.) The first piece you see is a film with different shapes forming (as if being drawn by an invisible hand) with German words and noises erupting from speakers placed near the old film projector. I vaguely remember this piece having to do with Sigmar Polke (which seems slightly suspicious, as the Tate have a big exhibition housing his works at the moment – coincidence or planned promotion?) But this piece was entirely pointless for me.

Now the second piece (and big show stopper) there was a film. That’s it. Tah-dah! A film, one displayed as you would if you went to the cinema. With a running time of 54 minutes. Which really is quite brave, so I do have to give it to Campbell for expecting people to hand around for almost an hour to watch this film in a gallery. The medium really does make a difference, and with a film you aren’t going to have an immediate impact. So you do have to sit there. Also, it’s a medium that we are so familiar with so it does need to leave quite an impression.

We saw the film from 20 minutes in until the end (as that was the point we happened to walk in) and that is the longest I have every sat in a gallery and watched a film piece for. It followed ‘art film’ conventions. Academic vocabulary. (Sometimes I had no idea what was going on.) Almost came across as a little preachy. But towards the end it did make a point about the art market, art and worth. And it wasn’t that bad.

Overall, what we can gage from this exhibition is the following:

1. The Tate thinks that the only art of any worth currently happening is video.
2. Ditto that with sound art.
3. For some reason there is a return to using traditional projectors/ slides/ film and leaving digital behind.
4. The Tate NEED to sort out their seating in exhibitions.
5. I think Campbell is going to win. The rest were just there to build up to his film.

Now I could be very wrong – but that’s part of the fun. Guessing who is going to win. It’s just like picking a couple to win on Strictly.

I would say it was worth a look – you do have to pay though – student price being £6. However, I wish the Tate had picked a broader range of artists this year. It feels as if the British art scene has become very samey, very safe and just not that interesting.

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