iPhone film-maker wins Turner Prize

Glasgow-based artist Charlotte Prodger's victory comes with a cash prize of $43,400.
Glasgow-based artist Charlotte Prodger's victory comes with a cash prize of $43,400.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Artist Charlotte Prodger's video works are multi-layered and have been called novelistic

LONDON • Charlotte Prodger, a Glasgow-based artist who makes films using her iPhone, has won this year's Turner Prize - British art's biggest accolade.

Prodger, 44, won the prize on Tuesday at a ceremony at Tate Britain in London for her video works including Bridgit, a 33-minute film that features painterly clips of everything from swans feeding among rocks to a T-shirt drying on a radiator.

The images are overlaid with Prodger and her friends reading excerpts from the diaries she wrote as a gay teenager in rural Scotland, passages from books and music such as snatches of a pirate radio station.

"She's an artist we've all been following for some time," said Mr Alex Farquharson, Tate Britain's director and the chair of the judges, in a telephone interview.

"But Bridgit represents a breakthrough and a use of a technology we're all familiar with to make something that is profound."

Mr Farquharson said Prodger's Turner Prize win was timely, not only because of her use of technology - she has also incorporated YouTube clips into her work - but also her focus on "queerness in the broadest sense" and how people's identities can change over time.

Prodger's films are so multilayered that they feel novelistic, Mr Farquharson added, comparing her work to the novels of James Joyce and Marcel Proust.

"I'm overwhelmed," Prodger said upon winning, before making a call for support of artists.

"I wouldn't be in this room were it not for the public funding I received from Scotland for free higher education and, later, in the form of artists' bursaries and grants to support not only the production of work but also living costs," she said.

Prodger's victory comes with a cash prize of £25,000 (S$43,400) and will greatly raise her profile. She is due to represent Scotland at next year's Venice Biennale.

Previous winners of the prize, founded in 1984, include Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry and Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years A Slave (2013) and Widows (2018).

Prodger is the third woman in a row to win, after Lubaina Himid and multimedia artist Helen Marten.

The British media sees the Turner Prize as an annual chance to assess, or pour scorn over, the state of contemporary art.

This year's all-film shortlist was called "the best and most demanding in the exhibition's history" by art critic Adrian Searle in The Guardian.

He had written that Prodger was his favourite for the prize: "Literary, lyrical and confessional, Bridgit is both a personal work and an attempt to analyse one's place in the world."

Prodger said she felt that moving-image work was marginalised in the art world because "it is long to watch, it is hard to install".

"I was pleased that all the finalists used it," she said.

But the Tate's show of the shortlisted works did not receive such enthusiasm in all quarters.

Mr Waldemar Januszczak, an art critic for The Sunday Times, wrote that the exhibition was "thoroughly consistent".

He wrote: "From beginning to end, this soul-crusher of a show is unusually awful."

Prodger's contribution was "the least bad", he added.

Nevertheless, Prodger was a surprise winner.

The favourite was Forensic Architecture - a research firm that uses architectural technology to investigate human-rights abuses.

The other two shortlisted artists were Naeem Mohaiemen, nominated for two long films - one exploring Bangladesh's politics after independence, the other about a man trapped in an airport - and Luke Willis Thompson, who makes video portraits of victims of police brutality.

Prodger was born in Bournemouth on England's south coast, but grew up in rural Scotland.

She studied at Goldsmiths, part of the University of London, and at the Glasgow School of Art, and has had solo exhibitions at galleries including the Sculpture Centre in New York and the Bergen Kunsthall in Norway.

Although not a household name, Prodger has been regularly called on to discuss queerness in art by British magazines.

"Ultimately, queerness is not a category or a style, but a lived experience, which I feel is in danger of being colonised, of being sanitised," she told Frieze magazine in 2014.

"The trend, which has great currency in the art market just now, of artists who may not identify as queer, but are flirting with a 'gay aesthetic', is divorced from the actual lived experience," she added.

Such work missed the complexity of queer life, she said, which includes dealing with "violence, vulnerability and historical oppression".

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2018, with the headline 'iPhone film-maker wins Turner Prize'. Print Edition | Subscribe