Goshka Mackuga, Deutsche Volk – Deutsche Arbeit. Photo © Tara Booth / Culture24
Tara Booth takes an objective look at this year’s Turner Prize – at Tate Britain until January 18 2009.
The work by this year’s shortlisted artists in the running for the 2008 Turner Prize has gone on display at London’s Tate Britain and it’s the usual heady mix of mild shock and puzzling abstraction.
Runa Islam, Mark Lecky, Goshka Macuga and Cathy Wilkes are competing for the £25,000 prize, which is awarded to a British artist under the age of 50 for an outstanding exhibition or presentation in the 12 months before May 6.
The winner will be announced on December 1 during a live broadcast on Channel 4 and the runners-up will receive a sum of £5,000.
Widely recognised as one of the most important and prestigious awards for the visual arts in Europe the Turner Prize is, whatever you think of it, very effective in encouraging debate and seems to revel in controversial or bizarre pieces.
Previous winners of the Turner Prize include Grayson Perry, Chris Ofili and last year’s winner, the man in a bear suit, Mark Wallington.
Heading up the pack this year, Goshka Macuga is an artist who engages with the construction of histories and is best known for her distinctive installations and environments that explore conventions of archiving, exhibition making and museum display.
Her installation for the Turner Prize attempts to fuse the romantic relationships of artists Paul Nash and Eileen Agar with that of designer Lilly Reich and architect and designer Mies van der Rohe.
To achieve this she juxtaposes meanings and materials by reconciling photographs and paper templates from the Nash and Agar archives into dynamic, single images.
Cathy Wilkes, I Give You All My Money – Photo © Tara Booth / Culture 24
“She breaths new life into them, encouraging new narratives and meanings,” said Curator Helen Little. “It is an ongoing fascination and exploration of Nash and the relationship between the two.”
What results is a concoction of old and new with collages that not only bring together ideas from two people but also unites the relationship.
The sculptural ensemble Haus der Frau I, Haus der Frau II and Deutsche Volk – Deutsche Arbeit (all 2008) are reconstructed from drawings with the help of an engineer. They delve into the forgotten history of Lilly Reich, Mie’s long-term professional and personal partner, who developed revolutionary approaches to exhibition design.
The ensemble was also shown at the fifth Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art in which she was shortlisted for.
Cathy Wilkes’ room-sized installation, I Give You All My Money, presents a highly charged arrangement of consumer readymades, such as prams and televisions, combined with sculptures, found objects and manipulated images.
Describing her installations as confessional and diaristic, Wilkes’ work lies in the examination of the language of objects and is a characterisation of the direct charm of daily human experience.
Two supermarket checkouts and two mannequins stand in the centre of the room with objects and fragments scattered around. Hair, leftover food, glass bowls, burnt wood, scraps of clothing and discarded toys lie on the gallery floor.
“Cathy has chosen everyday objects plus things from her own domestic realm,” explained curator Sophie O’Brian. “Everything has been delicately and precisely placed, to encourage people to relook at objects with a refreshed eye. She makes the familiar unfamiliar.”
Mark Leckey, Resident Poster. © Mark Leckey
Often using found images, footage and sound, Mark Leckey’s work engages in a dynamic questioning of the connections between surface and dimension, appearance and self-determination, location and presence.
He specifically celebrates the imagination and our potential to inhabit, reclaim or animate an idea, a space, or an object.
His group of works here focusses on a series of sculptural animals including Felix gets Broadcasted 2007, Made in ‘Eaven 2004 and Search Engine.
Cinema-in-the-Round 2006-2008 is a short lecture that presents the artist’s collection of film, television and video extracts as a subjective lecture-style performance.
Split into chapters, the talk considers the proposition of matter, the transformation from still to moving image, the development of images from flat to voluminous and the life of images on-screen.
He discusses Felix, the animated cat, popular in the 1920s and 1930s and the development of the CGI Garfield. The 1997 blockbuster Titanic is also discussed in terms of the director James Cameron’s attempt to showcase the relationship between man and technology.
He also approaches the ability to transform an object from 2D to 3D and finally to reality using the recognisable Homer from The Simpsons as an example.
Interested in the transformation of flat to still to moving image to 3D, Leckey’s interest is drawn from the Internet, books, adverts, Hitchcockian films and magic. He uses his own identity as a filter for a wide variety of found material.
Runa Islam, Be The First To See What You See As You See It. 2004, Courtesy Jay Jopling (London). © the artist
Runa Islam presents a selection of three film works including ‘Be The First To See What You See As You See It’ 2004, ‘First Day of Spring’ 2005 and CINEMATOGRAPHY 2007.
Islam’s open-ended pieces are closely choreographed allowing her to innovatively use the apparatus and illusion of film to question and re-imagine contemporary visual culture.
Be The First To See What You See As You See It is a collage of sequences of a woman in a gallery of chintzy china crockery on plinths. As she wanders through the gallery in a dreamlike state, she gently taps the china, which falls and shatters on the floor.
The moment of fracture is exaggerated with slow motion as Islam explores the ability of objects existing.
First Day of Spring is a short silent film of Bangladeshi rickshaw drivers at rest. It is a sympathetic portrait of everyday life and is very lyrical in places. Slow tracking shots scan the scene which then develop into close-ups, revealing texture and life.
CINEMATOGRAPHY investigates the concept and technical foundation of the medium to an extreme, tracking letters of the film’s title as the film progresses. She applies close detail to composition and again favours the tracking shot as the camera swoops around a film apparatus workshop.
Although densely layered, her films reconfigure the conventional structure of the film image to reveal isolated elements of its construction.
“Her films are very carefully choreographed and deliberately open-ended,” said Curator Carolyn Kerr. “Runa is fascinated with the illusion of film, location, plot, familiarity, light and dark and camera apparatuses.”
By Tara Booth
The Turner Prize 2008 Exhibition is open September 30 2008 – January 18 2009 at the Linbury Galleries, Tate Britain. The winner will be announced on December 1 2008