I love a good controversy. So naturally, I really enjoy the debate around the Turner Prize each year, as the annual cries of the ‘That’s not art!’ ring from the newspapers and art pundits. The annual debate over the incomprehensibility of the contemporary art world is as predictable as it is entertaining.
Perhaps because I work in the business of visual communications, I envy the creative freedom when I view really imaginative contemporary art. In the graphic communication industry, consensus is often (though not always) a positive result. We spend much of our energy and expertise trying to maximise the clarity and effectiveness of messages for the greatest possible comprehension and for the greatest audience. So the enigmatic messages of contemporary art, where making sure everyone ‘gets it’ is often not that important, provides a wonderful sense of freedom. It’s like a massage for my brain.
A year ago I visited Tate Britain in London to see the Turner Prize in person for the first time. Being the most prestigious contemporary visual art award in Europe (and maybe the world) I had always wanted to see the exhibition at its home in the Tate Britain. I love that Britain has this widely-publicised prize which puts contemporary art on the cover of newspapers and gives everyone at least high-level familiarity with contemporary art trend. If only for a day.
Last year’s nominated artists were mostly video and multi-media artists who combined stills, video, sounds and installations to tell very personal stories. The combination of fleeting messages with permanent objects made for an often unsettling experience. The ultimate winner was Duncan Campbell’s It for Others—a work that reflects on African art and includes a dance sequence inspired by Karl Marx.
This year I don’t have to travel far to see what’s on offer. Every other year, the prize leaves Tate Britain and is exhibited at a venue outside London. Glasgow’s very own Tramway is the venue for 2015. For many around these parts, it’s about time, considering the prominent role Glasgow-born and educated artists have played in the British contemporary art scene for the better part of a quarter century.
Dr Penelope Curtis, Director, Tate Britain says it best: “Given how many artists from Glasgow have made up the Turner Prize shortlists over recent years, it is great to have the Prize on show in the Tramway, which feels like a natural home for the Prize this year.”
This year’s nominations are more eclectic than ever, from a collective that constructs spaces for social enterprise in conjunction with local communities, to an operatic work composed for six voices.
I’m looking forward to viewing all the nominees at the Tramway later this month and, well, not ‘getting it’.