Arnolfini steward, Christopher Fleming visits Turner Prize 2013 in Derry/Londonderry the current UK City of Culture for 2013.
The Arnolfini galleries are currently closed, while behind the scenes staff busily prepare for the upcoming exhibition: Joelle Tuerlinckx, 'Wor(l)d)k) In Progress'. It means I have time to travel back to Northern Ireland to my hometown of Derry to see the 2013 Turner Prize. (And see my family too, of course.)
Derry/Londonderry is the current UK City of Culture for 2013, and hosting the prestigious Turner Prize is the highlight of the visual arts programme.
It's the first time the award has ever been held outside of England.
Grayson Perry, who won the Turner prize in 2003, recently delivered one of his fantastic 'Reith lectures' live from Derry's Guildhall for BBC Radio 4.
And perhaps programmed to coincide; former nominee and Derry born artist Willie Doherty, is showing photographic and video works at the City Factory gallery on Patrick street until January 4th.
For me, crossing the city's new peace bridge to a former British army barracks to visit the Turner Prize is surreal, but an example of how much the city I grew up in is changing.
The artists nominated for this year’s prize are: David Shrigley, Laure Prouvost [pictured], Tino Sehgal and Lynette Yiadom Boakeye.
Shrigley's piece is unusual for an artist better known for his writing and books.
'Life model' features a rather crude statue of a life model which blinks and urinates periodically into a metal bucket.
Viewers are invited to make drawings at easels and exhibit them as part of the installation. The interactive aspect seemed popular with groups of school kids.
Shrigley featured at Arnolfini as part of Doug Fishbone's 'Adventureland golf' back in August.
I had seen Laure Prouvost's 'Wantee' in its orignal context at 'Schwitters in Britain' (for which it was commissioned) at Tate Britain earlier in the year.
It's a film projected in a darkened room full of tables and chairs and crudely fashioned ceramic teapots.
It's an eccentric, fast-edit film with a voiceover from the artist which makes little sense in terms of narrative.
It seems to be about the artist’s fictional grandparents, although it was too difficult to concentrate on for very long.
Another film, in a carpeted pink room, was more dream-like in its imagery.
Upstairs Lynett Yiadom Boakeye's paintings offered welcome solace from the wacky Prouvost.
There's a still intensity to the figures in her portrait paintings and the mood is emphasised by the low lighting in the room.
They are not paintings of real people. The artist uses "invented prehistories" according to the press release, which made me think about people without context or identity - and I suppose that is the point.
They do look as if they were painted in a hurry though, as she likes to work quickly, claiming that immediacy is an important part of her process.
I move on to the final gallery where I expect Tino Sehgal's piece.
Now, I already knew the premise of this work: I would be approached by an invigilator and asked a question about the market economy and the subsequent 'exchange' would constitute the artwork. I'd then be able to claim £2 on my way out.
However, I walked through the gallery and both staff members were already busily engaged in discussion with two small groups. Talk about having your expectations confounded.
I continued to the artist films hoping to see something by Seghal, but he had refused to make one.
How many people I wondered, had passed through the gallery without knowing there was an artwork there at all, who didn't have any kind of exchange, and who saw nothing by the artist about his practice?
Such wilful obscurity and deliberate vagueness seemed to be met with indifference by most people I've spoken with.
There isn’t much left that artists will not subvert as an extension of their practice - gallery guides, wall text, artist lectures, artist films etc.
To forego such obvious ways to shed some light on your artistic practice can frustrate people.
For anyone who has studied art, this might seem to be old hat, as it's nigh on fifty years since ideas about the dematerialization of the art object first started to become avant garde, but for the general public it still seems to leave them cold.
Love it or hate it, Sehgal's work does ask all the difficult philosophical questions about what, where and when an artwork can exist, and for this reason, it's probably the favourite to win.
- Christopher Fleming
The Turner Prize winner will be announced at an awards ceremony on Monday December 2nd. The exhibition runs until January 5th, 2014.