The artists shortlisted for this year’s Turner Prize prove that during the last forty years art and its ‘industry’ has lost the plot. I am saying this even bearing in mind that thematising the ‘losing the plot of the art industry’ might be the point of Turner Prize. Then the problem does not lie on the artists but on the critics who are paralised (‘stupid’ has the same ethimological root) by their blatant lack of knowledge of art theory.
One could argue that the exact moment when this confusion happened was when Dan Flavin’s dropped that bomb that could be called as ‘conceptual visual irony’ through his light tubes. There, the ilussionism of light through a tube clashed with the acknowledgment of its low materiality as an electric device. After that point, irony became, in itself, the source of artistic value for generations to the point that we have almost forgotten what was like before then. To make things worse, instalationism confused art with theatre and took the issues raised by minimalism to a complete new level. The result is not only this year’s nominees but, most worryingly, the way art critics such as Adrian Searle or Mark Hudston, to give just two examples, are reacting to this year’s nomination as the ‘comeback’ of sculpture.
Well, the thing is that there is hardly sculpture in the four artists selected whose work transfer the whole responsibility of making sense of ‘assembled’ chaos to the viewer. There is objectuality but not sculpture. The selection includes the creator of an 18ft sculpture of a man’s bare buttocks, another obsessed by corrugated shop window shutters, another whose sculptures are described as “slippery and elusive” and a fourth who allowed visitors to ride around the gallery on a choo-choo train. The artists in question are Anthea Hamilton, Michael Dean, Helen Marten and Josephine Pryde on this year’s shortlist and all four artists will exhibit their work at a Turner prize show running from September to January with the winner receiving £25,000.
Alex Farquharson, Tate Britain’s director has already started to relativise the relevance of these artists as sculptors saying that the decision was not based on artistic concerns but on thematic concerns as if art was a mere illustration of social themes such as, to quote Farquharson, “the ubiquitous influence of the internet”.
So, do the british think that the way of reflecting on the ubiquitous image in the internet what Anthea Hamilton does, to give an example? In times of Instagram, should we consider the assemblage of random objects relevant without an intentional separation of cognition and perception? Are Michael Dean or Helen Marten, Britain’s way of discussing the lack of real choices in a commodified visual market? If this is the case, this year’s nomination shows the artistic crisis we go through because the same issues were explored by the Independent Group in that groundbreaking 1957 exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery titled ‘This is Tomorrow’ and the result was Pop Art at its best. After last year’s choice which transformed the judges into ‘ready made artists’ avant la lettre, the Turner Prize had a chance to go in an inspiring direction but they haven’t. J A T