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Turner Prize 2004 Tate Britain UK, a long review not talking much about the art

From: OId
Category: Exhibitions
Date: 01 December 2004


Langland and Bell, Yinka Shonibare, Kutlug Ataman, Jeremy Deller

When's it going to end? One day there will be no Turner Prize and we will miss it. Until then we must enjoy the most miserable god-forsaken faint trifling art that has ever been displayed. Define art. Definitions are only useful if they explain why something is good, exciting, valuable, interesting, and distinct; and then hold that subject to account. In of themselves definitions are boring, reactionary, and pointless. Perhaps defining some of the salient features of art would be a good thing, and it might even be good to start with why painting at its best holds clues to what art can be.

I digress. I make mess. I confess. In my opinion (who elses?) the Turner prize curators define art as an investigation into any area (eg sociology, history, politics) using any means, and usually involving visual evidence being presented. Ok fine. But there are problem with this definition...

First the results: dismal pseudo-documentaries, and photos, and museum-display like objects. The results as shown in this Turner prize and many other shows, are boring and not visually stimulating. If the art was good (yes I know this is my opinion, but it is more than that, it is an educated judgment) then no questions would need to be asked about what's wrong.

Second, the defintion tells us nothing about what is great (beautiful, wonderful, special, interesting!) about art, and what distinguishes it. Because of this, what is good about art is often forgotten or misunderstood or ignored.

Third, this defintion is self-serving (probably not consciously) to curators and critics who find it easier to explain what the subject of a piece of art is then get lost in philosophical/metaphysical debates about what's good about it. Eg Easier to talk about a virtual reality tour of Osama Bin Ladens house by Langlands and Bell, then explain why Barnett Newman is better than his innumerable contemporary immitators. This point is also relevant to art schools and artists. It's much easier to teach and practice, discursive, investigative art, with lots of phone-calls, shooting schedules, research, and proposals, then sit in a small cold white room thinking about why and what to make.

I would like to see a surprising, beautiful, ugly, display of art at The Turner Prize, next year.

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