The Turner Prize is an annual arts event never to be missed, and this year the shortlisted artists – Duncan Campbell, Ciara Phillips, James Richards and Tris Vonna-Michell – have the added prestige of appearing at Tate Britain alongside an exhibition showcasing the work of the great J.M.W. Turner himself.
However, none of the work bears similarity of the prize’s namesake, this year dominated by film and installation. The most resonating of these is James Richard’s sensual film installation Rosebud, which intersperses pages of Japanese erotic novels, the flickering image of a singing bird and glimpses of womens’ flesh, the camera running and rolling over pale skin. Elements of the film have been censored, which leads the imagination – however pure – to perhaps expect the hidden parts to be more transgressive than they are. Richards gently plays with expectations, eroticism and combines locations, bodies, sources in a smooth, rhythmic dance on screen.
Perhaps less successful as part of a group exhibition is Duncan Campbell’s hour long film, It For Others (2013, which is difficult viewing in a similar way to the 2012 entry by Luke Fowler, a 90 minute cinema piece surrounding psychology. These films are not uninteresting but if one were to allow the same amount of time for each Turner Prize nominee, this year you would be in Tate Britain’s galleries for four hours. It’s clear that in its first exhibition, this year’s Venice Bienale, It For Others (2013) could have enjoyed the concentration it requires – it is a politically charged and sociological investigation, performed through archival footage and new work – however as part of an exhibition full of other, more audibly shouting voices, it slightly falls behind.
Young Canadian printmaker Ciara Phillips is, in terms of her practise, a slight rarity amongst the previous generations of Turner Prize nominees, however in the style of 2012’s winner Spartacus (now Marvin Gaye) Chetwynd, Phillips was nominated for work which involves visitors and is at once installation, printmaking, intervention and performance. However, the work which appears as part of this year’s prize is not inclusive, but static: a room of neon handmade screenprints, fly-posted from floor to ceiling.
Finally, Tris Vonna-Michell presents a series of films which recall his German mother’s post-war upbringing. The artist’s accompanying voiceovers verge on hysterical – gasping, and slightly disturbing – and the effect is that one isn’t quite sure whether to back away or listen in. The work certainly communicates a fragmented memory and, as with all autobiographical work is slightly difficult to relate to, but allows for reflection and – like Richard’s film – for the audience to work to fill in the gaps. The accompanying unrelated archival texts are interesting as objects, relating to poet Henry Chopin, but leave the viewer more interested in Chopin than Vonna-Michell.
Of the work, Richard’s makes the most sense in this year’s particularly conceptual Turner Prize exhibition.
Turner Prize 2014 Until 4 January 2015 Tate Britain, Millbank, London www.tate.org.uk
1. Ciara Phillips, Workshop (2010–ongoing), 2013, installation view, The Showroom, London. Commissioned by The Showroom, London. Photo: Daniel Brooke. Courtesy the artist and The Showroom, London. © Ciara Phillips.
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