'Exhilarating' fire film helps Elizabeth Price win Turner Prize

Tue, Dec 4, 2012, 00:00

Elizabeth Price won the Turner Prize for contemporary art yesterday, delighting critics who had championed her film about a fatal fire in Manchester in 1979, describing it variously as “terrifying” and “exhilarating”.

The 46-year-old was the least familiar of four artists shortlisted for the annual prize, and she beat the favourite, Paul Noble, to win a cheque for £25,000 (€30,800) and earn instant recognition and acclaim.

Price was honoured for her show earlier this year at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, near Newcastle, where three video works were on display including one which travelled to London for the Turner Prize exhibition.

The Woolworths Choir of 1979 brings together photographs of church architecture, internet clips of pop performances and news footage of a fire in Manchester in which 10 people died.

By weaving together apparently unrelated topics and visual styles as well as text and music, Price seeks to demonstrate that any kind of information, be it dry, catchy or macabre, can be transmitted in an arresting, memorable way.

Art critics, who were generally complimentary about this year’s shortlist, were full of praise for the film.

“It is 20 of the most exhilarating minutes I’ve ever spent in an art gallery, said Richard Dorment of the Telegraph in his review of the Turner Prize show at Tate Britain in London in October. The exhibition runs until January 6th.

“What is more, as I watched it with mounting excitement, I began to realise that I was in the presence of an artwork that has the potential fundamentally to change the way knowledge is transferred, the way we teach and the way we learn.”

Broader debate

The Turner Prize has a history of provoking broader debate about the role of art in contemporary life, but the more sober approach risks seeing it sidelined by the public.The award to any artist under 50 living, working or born in Britain has helped establish the careers of artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. It also generated shrill headlines from a sceptical press, not least when Martin Creed won in 2001 with an empty room featuring a light that switched on and off.

– (Reuters)