The four artists had not met before June 2019, but then decided to declare themselves a collective and were allowed to accept the prize for the four of them. Tai Shane wore a pendant at the presentation that said ‘Tories Out’ just before the December election. The other three comprised Oscar Murillo, Helen Cammock and Laurence Abu Hamden.
I saw this as a marvellous rejection of the present culture, fostered by capitalism, of a winner and a number of losers. This is perpetuated via countless contests from The Apprentice with its ridiculous business tasks tackled by teams of rivals with no time to prepare and no chance of carrying them out well, to cooking competitions, gardening, sewing, house decorating and dancing. All are made into a drama of winners and losers. It is daily reinforcement of a culture with a few winners and many losers where everyone must wear themselves out in useless rivalry.
I can imagine TV where the participants are learning and developing, nurtured and celebrated, where no one is excluded, and people thrive and collaborate. We have all seen this in ordinary life in groups and in classes.
In this year’s Apprentice one contestant, Thomas, refused to accept the unfair inclusion of a woman – in the three one of whom would be thrown out – and he took her place. To me this was a great moment and even the boss, Alan Sugar, had to commend Thomas for gallantry, but chose to exclude him the next week, saying at that time that if there was a war and he needed a comrade Thomas would be his choice. Thomas threatened the programme’s foundation of ruthless self–interest and overriding profit motive.

The joint winners, from left: Tai Shani, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo
Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The Turner Prize was also subverted to some extent, although the whole concept is riddled with dodgy values as we don’t know how the four were chosen. When I was within the age category my husband put my name, not the same as his, forward. I fulfilled the criteria at the time. While not expecting to be chosen, I was surprised he was not even contacted for more information and neither was I. No contact was made. This indicates unfairness as well as rudeness.
What next? Could the Turner Prize become something different? What does difference even mean in our society where we are all becoming one? Could we hear about the submissions, the jury, the discussions? Could it be winners all from now on, treating us all as if in primary school?

Mary Fletcher

Volume 34 no 3 January – February 2020 p 26

2 thoughts on “4 into 1: Turner Prize

  1. Hi Mary,
    I enjoyed reading what you wrote on the Turner Prize and completely agree with you. What do you suppose will happen at the next Turner Prize? Any suggestions?

    1. I don’t know-I would like it to become a celebration of the artists not a competition but maybe the terms of the prize do not allow that.
      The end of my piece has been somehow garbled in the printing – it should say –
      ‘What next? Could the Turner prize become something different?
      Could we hear about the submissions, the jury, the discussions? Could it be four awards not one?’

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