Who Should Win This Year's Turner Prize?

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 46 months ago

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Who Should Win This Year's Turner Prize?
Naeem Mohaiemen's film involves a man wandering an airport by himself.

If there's an annual art exhibition that gets people talking, it's the Turner Prize. Some people love it, some have clear views on who should win, others hate it and think artists should go back to painting landscapes. One guarantee is that it's a talking point and as far as we're concerned, the more people discussing art, the better.

This year there are four contestants and it's a film-heavy show — it'll take around five hours to see all the works on display. This is why Tate Britain has all the works breaking off from a comfy lounge in the middle with sofas and reading material. Now if only someone was running food deliveries to the exhibition, it would be perfect for the die hard visitors who want to see every work.

This year we've taken each artist in turn, summarised the work, given our opinion on it and the likelihood of it winning. This is one of the most political line ups we've seen, and it feels like every contender is in with a shot.

Forensic Architecture

Piecing together the evidence. Copyright Forensic Architecture.

What's the work? Forensic architecture is a research group that investigates thorny political and legal issues to uncover the truth. The group is so removed from 'traditional' artists that it was surprised to be nominated.  

In this work, a short film shows first hand footage of a chaotic Israeli raid on a Bedouin village where an Israeli policeman and a Bedouin villager were killed. The police force originally claimed that it was a terrorist act but the evidence pieced together by Forensic Architecture points to the fact that police fired first.

What do we think? Forensic Architecture is doing hugely important work representing those who are often oppressed by ruling governments, and the Turner Prize almost feels like a triviality given the gravity of its research and activism. FA was nominated for its exhibition at ICA, tackling big issues such as Syrian airstrikes and refugees in the Mediterranean, which blew us away. There's no doubt in our minds that this should win the prize.

Will they win? They're not just our favourite, but the bookie's favourites too. It's a tough one to beat and given the importance of the work, it would be an odd choice for the jury to pick anyone else.

Naeem Mohaiemen

An insightful 90 minute film worth watching. Photo: Michael Nast

What's the work? Two films that tackle decolonisation post second world war. One is a documentary looking at how politics transpired over this time, from countries that were aligned neither to the US or the Soviet Union. The second film involves a man wandering an airport by himself, leaving messages for his family. While he's not trapped, he doesn't seem able to leave either.

What do we think? We can imagine the groans when people find out this is two 90 minute films. We were the same — after all, just one duration of 90 minutes is more than enough for most exhibitions, let alone one work. The more overtly political film had us gripped as we learned about the non-aligned nations and their struggles — it's a history that our Euro-centric upbringing never covered. The second is subtle and haunting, though could easily have been shorter. This was an artist we hadn't heard of before but we left impressed, intending to check out more of his work.

Will he win? His alternate history and the angle of decolonisation is something that hasn't been covered much in art, and the two films are beautifully put together. This has got to be a strong second favourite for the prize, and if Mohaiemen was going up against last year's weak shortlist, we'd easily put him at the front.

Charlotte Prodger

It's all shot on an iPhone and we can tell. Image courtesy of the artist, Koppe Astner, Glasgow and Hollybush Gardens, London

What's the work? A film shot entirely on the artist's iPhone documents her life, the surrounding landscape and her queer identity. It's a very personal and introspective autobiography.

What do we think? There are occasional snippets of personal stories that are fascinating, such as being confronted by women for being in the 'wrong' toilets, being asked whether her girlfriend is her sister and whether the clothes she is buying are for her son that make us empathise with the challenges she's faced. However, most of the work is ramblings that the viewer can't comprehend, and the images on screen don't align with the narration.

Will she win? We may not like the work but Turner Prize juries are susceptible to those introspective artists who completely alienate the audience. This makes her an outside bet, and in such a strong year, her chances are slim.

Luke Willis Thompson

A still and resolute portrait. Photo: Andy Keate.

What's the work? Three films show victims, including two who lost loved ones to police violence. The film he was nominated for is of Diamond Reynolds, who famously broadcast the shooting of her boyfriend by police on Facebook Live. Thompson has chosen to show her sitting resolutely in opposition to the understandably emotional version of her which the world saw on Facebook.

What do we think? While Thompson is tackling an important issue, we don't think any of that comes across in his work. Any emotion we see in Reynolds' face is probably transference given we know what happened to her. We've seen this particular work three times now and even spoken to a fellow critic who loves the work, and yet we remain unconvinced. Personally, we think this is the weakest of the four.

Will he win? Working in his favour is that he's already won this year's Deutsche Borse Foundation Photography Prize. Working against him are protests that his work profits from black pain. This makes him a controversial choice but he's yet another artist who may have triumphed if the line up was weaker. We make him third most likely to nab the award.

Turner Prize 2018 is on at Tate Britain until 6 January 2019. Tickets are £11 for adults.

Last Updated 02 October 2018