Turner Prize 2018 review

3 out of 5 stars
Turner Prize 2018 review
courtesy of the artist, Koppe Astner, Glasgow and Hollybush Gardens, London. Video Still.

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Note: this year's Turner Prize has now been won by Charlotte Prodger.

It’s staggering that after all these years the Turner Prize can still induce such apoplectic, tumescent, viscous rage in the general public and red-top media. It’s a contemporary art prize you absolute weenies, why is it shocking to you that it’s not just a room full of copies of ‘The Hay Wain’?

This year people seem more ragingly frothy than normal because (gasp!) there’s no paintings in it and (shock!) all the art’s political. It’s almost as if the Turner Prize is reflective of our times rather than your particular taste in art…

All four artists – or groups of artists – in this show work with video. The first room in the show is set up like a lounge with grey sofas and a table full of books, giving you four dark doors to choose from.

The first door leads to Naeem Mohaiemen’s work. Across three screens, he tells the story of a battle for power between the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in the 1970s. It’s the death of socialism and the struggle against imperialism writ large. His other work follows a day in the life of a man living in an abandoned airport. It takes three hours to watch all of this, so brace yourself. It’s not all that absorbing, and ends up feeling like a sub-Netflix political documentary that’s neither that interesting nor particularly affecting.

The next door leads to the work of Forensic Architecture, a group of academics, theorists and artists out of Goldsmiths uni who use alternative techniques to gather evidence of injustice. Their show at the ICA a few months back was a powerful, shocking, impactful lashing-out at societal transgressions, even if it was blighted by an infuriating inability to communicate their ideas clearly. Here, they collect video evidence of an Israeli raid on a Bedouin village, constructing a timeline of the violence. It’s concise, powerful, and very, very effective.

Next comes Luke Willis Thompson, a New Zealand artist who films quiet, austere 35mm portraits of people who have been the victims of racial violence. One work, based on the Met Police’s killing of Joy Gardner in 1993 and the shooting of Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce, which sparked the 1985 Brixton riots, gives a striking humanity to a long lost set of headlines. But his portrait of Diamond Reynolds, who livestreamed the brutal murder of her partner Philando Castile at the hands of American police, adds so little impact to the original narrative that it feels a little pointless.

Charlotte Prodger’s film is behind door four and it’s the most personal of the lot. Shot on an iPhone, filled with scenes of home life, the countryside, rumbling seas and Neolithic stones, it’s a gentle, sad meditation on identity, gender and history. If I was being cruel I’d say it was a bit Wes Anderson-goes-to-Goldsmiths, but it’s lovely in lots of ways, though quite dull in others.

As an exhibition, this is absolutely awful. The opening dentist’s waiting room followed by literally hours of art in the same medium leaves you wishing you’d had root canal instead. It’s over-long, slow and unvaried. It's a poor experience. But it’s not really an exhibition. It’s a statement about where contemporary art is right now, and that’s way more interesting. These are troubled times, politically and socially, and that’s screamed out loudly and clearly across every work here. Some of it is bollocks, some of it isn’t. That’s life, and that’s the Turner Prize. My money’s on Forensic Architecture.



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