Turner Prize 2013: trooping to Turner on tour
Derry has delivered as a venue for the prestigious art award show – and is in danger of eclipsing the work by David Shrigley, Tino Seghal, Laure Prouvost and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Turner contender: a visitor looks at a painting by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
Turner contender: David Shrigley’s Life Model. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty
Turner contender: Tino Sehgal. Photograph courtesy of Johnny Green
Turner contender: work by Laure Prouvost. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire
It might be the UK City of Culture, but Derry is a bold choice for this year’s Turner Prize exhibition, the award’s first venture outside England. As Penelope Curtis, the director of Tate Britain and the chairwoman of the Turner panel, says, everyone has put a huge amount of work into the project. And it shows. It’s impressive that, effectively starting from scratch, they’ve come up with a tight, well-organised exhibition in a sensitively tailored venue, a former barracks on the huge Ebrington site.
Ebrington, a 10-hectare complex on the east bank of the River Foyle that was a closed military installation between 1841 and 2003, is now at the heart of Derry’s cultural and civic regeneration. “From parade ground to common ground,” as Shona McCarthy, head of the city’s Culture Company, puts it. The Peace Bridge, opened in 2011, links it to the cityside opposite.
So much for the logistics, but what about the prize shortlist and the exhibition itself? Two Irish judges are on the panel: Annie Fletcher, an Eindhoven-based curator, and Declan Long, of the National College of Art and Design. The others are Susanne Gaensheimer, director of Frankfurt Modern Art Museum, and Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery.
Curtis says that hers was a fairly passive role in the process, although she has expressed her liking for David Shrigley’s Hayward Gallery exhibition, the show that got him on to the shortlist. The flavour of that list, with a strong emphasis on engagement, participation, cultural politics and economic issues, seems to reflect Fletcher’s curatorial priorities.
This applies especially to Tino Seghal, the London-born, Berlin-based artist who has built a significant international reputation by devising projects that consist almost entirely of “live encounters between people”. His training in choroegraphy comes into play as much as his study of political economics. Small teams of meticulously trained “interpreters” engage with visitors.
In Derry he is staging a piece originally made in 2003, This Is Exchange. Enter his gallery space and an interpreter is likely to offer you £2 in exchange for your views on the market economy.
Seghal’s economic thinking is grounded in Hans Christoph Binswanger’s ideas on sustainable development, which propose an alternative to the general model of relentless growth and consumption. As the conversations proceed, apparently abstract questions lead to more local, personal concerns, addressing the kind of community values we would like.
Historically, Seghal’s approach derives in part from Guy Debord’s situationist movement, formed in the late 1950s, and coincides with ideas more recently formulated by Nicolas Bourriaud in his influential book Relational Aesthetics. The bottom line is that art should be an agent for social and political change.