bory on Wed, 30 Oct 2002 15:44:26 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-ro] For your attention

Bory spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought you should see it.

Note from Bory:

Alta recenzie despre Turner Prize. In caz ca atzi citit shi cealalta recenzie, observatzi diferentza de ton.

To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to

Badly drawn words 
After the hype comes the brouhaha.  Adrian Searle gives his verdict on the Turner prize
Adrian Searle
Tuesday October 29 2002
The Guardian

I am very bored with the Turner prize, the show's layout and the razzmatazz and the hype, the snotty soundbites and the perennial controversy. It is all very undignified and divisive. The art itself gets kicked around like a football, in a game in which no one knows the rules. But it doesn't matter - the game's the thing! 

This year, the brouhaha will be over Fiona Banner's contribution to the show, which uses rude words and, in describing a porno movie scene by scene, is itself pornographic. There are a lot of words in this year's Turner Prize show. Dirty words, unreadable words, missing words, handwritten words and badly drawn words. There are gags, commentaries, explanations, descriptions. It's a language game, but then art always is, at some level.  

A tall, hexagonal tower stands in Keith Tyson's space, humming with unseen electrical activity. The Thinker (After Rodin) allegedly houses a complex of powerful computers, which are running an artificial life programme. It will keep going for 33,000 years, working through its algorithms, teeming with numbers. Of course, there could just be a tape machine in there, or a pile of old electrics giving out a hiss. Who knows? Tyson's work has always had claims to science, and intimates complex mental processes and the juggling of gargantuan concepts.  

All this is the pleasure of Tyson's work - the humour, the mental slipperiness, the giddy invocations of the complexities and unbiddable, unpredictable randomness of the universe. Tyson's working drawings cover one wall, a vastly entertaining, heaving mass of equations, patterns, photographs, grids, notes and in-jokes. Some of this stuff is pretty funny, in a Douglas Adams kind of way, and some of it bludgeons the viewer with pseudo science, like the technical gobbledegook characters in science-fiction movies have to spout, without giggling, when the warp drive's on the blink.   

I don't know if you need a PhD, an instruction manual or a pinch of salt to get through all this. That's the fun of Tyson's art, but also its great limitation. What about the nasty black Trafalgar Square Lion sitting under the table, whose rear end is extruded into a tangle of branches and twigs? There's an electric toaster plugged up the lion's rear too, to what end I cannot tell. And as for all the things arranged on top of the table ... You can waste hours deconstructing Anticipating a Tumbling Coin from a Cherubic Mint - but is it worth it?   

The artist frightens us by revealing the kinds of hidden connections that, if taken seriously, lead to a dangerous belief in universal conspiracy and synchronicity. Tyson acknowledges this in two large, seemingly identical paintings covered with what seems to be a field of coloured billiard balls, which represent molecules seen in close-up. The statements painted over them look the same, but aren't. We read "From behind the door, a cry of 'Room Service'," on one panel, and "Patient silence in the Friends Meeting House" on the other. "It's a gallstone" is complemented by "It's a home run". There are dozens of these parallel events. You come away discombobulated. It is the variousness of Tyson's imagination that gets to you, and what saves his work from the kind of precocious, laddish nerdiness he's always in danger of falling into, like a terrifying conceptual black hole.  

I got into an awful lot of trouble with Liam Gillick following my review of his recent Whitechapel Gallery show, and he thinks I'm criticism's Henry Pooter. The Diary of a Nobody may be hilarious on one level, but it is also gruelling on another. That's life for you. Gillick's installation here also functions on two distinct physical and conceptual levels. Above our heads is a suspended false ceiling, in his signature materials of anodised aluminium and coloured Plexiglass. The ceiling is a huge grid, the Perspex slotted in parallel bands of various widths. Gillick has done this before. It is a winning device, and very pleasing to look up at, and to look through, to the lighting rigs and details of the top-lit roof above.  

Before you ask, this has nothing to do with Martin Creed's Turner prize-winning work last year, although both works make you aware of yourself, standing in space and illuminated by light. The optical niceties and view through the ceiling are, I guess, incidental. The point to Gillick's Coats of Asbestos Spangled with Mica, a title that itself is like a conjurer's misdirection, is to lead the mind elsewhere. Then Gillick goes and spoils it by installing a high-sided display case on the floor, with a range of Gillickabilia beneath its glass top - as if he needs to tell us what he is doing for an airport in Texas and a German bookshop, about the beach towel he has designed and the graphics for a painting show. Is this more than an advertisement for himself? Is it proof of his versatility and, as a Tate press release says, "the diversity of his practice"?  

Part of Gillick's aim is to make us aware of the fluidity of situations, activities, genres - looking at art and shopping, negotiating and compromising, being and bopping. He wants to work in the gaps between different areas of human activity. In the little Channel 4 film of Gillick explaining his work, we see him sitting pensively in the gardens at London's Barbican, among the water features and the greenery. These quiet, posed moments of a modern man in a modern setting are intended, I think, as a signal to his urbanity, just as his art signals its grown-up place, reflecting a thoughtful and flexible position in the culture industry. He negotiates the needs of the self against his place in a social construct. This pose has to be ironic, doesn't it? Why is it I feel the terror coming on again?  

I was surprised by Catherine Yass's nomination. Her new films, however, are a genuine advance on work that seemed to have got stuck. A camera fitted to a radio-controlled miniature helicopter swoops and dives around and between the rooftops near Broadcasting House. It is a pigeon's eye view, a smooth, yet perilous flight; less Superman, more Mary Poppins. I just wish there was more to it than an unusual, avian view of the world.  

Her second film is a slow, 800ft descent, filmed from a Canary Wharf crane. The floors of unfinished towers go by - but they rise instead of fall, because the film has been inverted. When she was filming, a fortuitous fog also fell, and the pearly thickening light adds all the atmosphere the artist could ever want. We are plunging slowly, head first. There's a great moment when a number of temporary strip lights on unfinished floors, eerily luminous in the fog, glide past. The forms we see - girders, window grids, concrete - are very sculptural. It reminds me of a Whistler Nocturne, or an imaginary outtake from Wim Wenders's movie Wings of Desire, or an animated Andreas Gursky. I'd have liked Yass's show better if she hadn't shown anything else. This is enough. The blurry lightbox images of a camera seeming to fall just look pretty, and Gerhard Richter-like.  

Fiona Banner's show comes as something of a shock after this, not least because of her calculated, almost abrasive, remorseless yet dispassionate tone of voice. It is this tone of voice we read in the textual descriptions that make up a large part of her works. The Tate has put her at the end so squeamish visitors can bypass her art and go straight out. The work here deals in large part with a written description of a porn film: cum-shot by suck-scene, rim-job by threesome.

The film is called Arsewoman in Wonderland. Not a moment or detail in this undoubtedly ludicrous and unedifying porn flick escapes her attention. I'm sure Banner finds it as fascinating and tacky as most of us, and her descriptions take in all the "nob" actions, all the wet quims, the fake orgasms. Everything is carefully, mechanically observed. The whole thing is printed in a seedy orange colour, in a slyly nasty and intermittently clear typeface across a creased, billboard-sized sheet of paper (itself glued over a mat of earlier sheets, billposting style).  

Reading, you keep losing your place, jumping the rails, and colliding with new scenes of alarming fake abandonment. This work has been shown before elsewhere without causing much fuss, but under the pornographic, salivating and moralising gaze of the world's media it is likely to whip up a storm. Porn is ripe for the artist's scrutiny, as was the filmic violence Banner described in her earlier, 1,000-page description of six Vietnam war movies. Why shouldn't an artist deal with these aspects of human behaviour? How do you deal with pornography without quotation?  

Her view of the film is completely depersonalised, and as distanced as it is possible to get, given that pornography always implicates its consumers, in a way that the best landscape painting says something about our relationship to nature. It is interesting to see this work in relation to Glare, a handwritten text that slants down and across a corner of the gallery, from floor to ceiling. It is a description of looking at a nude woman, who may be in a life class, or on stage in a live sex show. The two are not as dissimilar as one might imagine, and both events are ritualised in such a way as to depersonalise the one being looked at, turning them into living objects, fleshy marionettes. Life classes and sex shows are full of inexpressible, suppressed sexuality. In both, there is a taboo against touching. They are pictorial events.  

Like a life drawing itself, Glare loses its place, gets distracted by the light, snags on details, has lapses in concentration. At floor level, the text gets concertinaed. There are splatters, rubbings out, lucid passages and tricky bits. This is an awkward, thoroughly engaging work. I just wish Banner hadn't put so much other stuff in her show, which adds little to the drama. All four artists have overloaded their shows, except Tyson, for whom compendiousness is part of the game.  

Who should win? It is Tyson or Banner. Banner, if only to cock a snook at handwringing hypocrisy. 

· The Turner prize show is at Tate Britain, London SW1 (020- 7887 8008), until January 5. The winner will be announced on December 8.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited
Nettime-ro mailing list