iPhone film-maker Charlotte Prodger wins 2018 Turner prize – The Guardian

iPhone film-maker Charlotte Prodger wins 2018 Turner prize – The Guardian

A series of short clips filmed on an iPhone featuring the Scottish countryside from a train window, a T-shirt on a radiator and a cat pawing at a lamp has helped Charlotte Prodger win the 2018 Turner prize.

Prodger was named the winner of the £25,000 prize by the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a ceremony in London on Tuesday evening.

The Glasgow-based artist has been making moving-image works for 20 years and is on many contemporary art radars. But she is far from being well known and the jury said her recent work represented a breakthrough into a new, more expansive way of working.

Speaking after her win, Prodger said: “I feel very honoured, blown away really. It’s quite surreal. It feels lovely.”

The artist said she used an iPhone for her work because she was on her own a lot and the phone felt like an extension of her: “Because of that ease of use and the way you can use it while you are going about the world. For me, everything is in there.”

Asked what she might do with the prize money, Prodger said: “I’ll live on it. I’ll pay my rent and my studio rent and some bills. Maybe there’ll be a little treat … probably a nice jacket. Don’t hold me to that!”

Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain, who chaired the judging panel, said Prodger’s work represented the “most profound use of a device as prosaic as the iPhone camera that we’ve seen in art to date”.

Prodger, 44, won for her solo exhibition at the Bergen Kunsthall in Norway, which featured two film works, Bridgit and Stoneymollan Trail. The 32-minute film Bridgit has been on display at Tate Britain as part of its Turner prize exhibition.

The film is difficult to explain. There is lots going on, a lot of it apparently randomly. It explores class, gender, sexuality and neolithic goddesses.

Prodger filmed the work over the course of a year and included footage of her at home and on her travels. Her narration includes snatches of autobiography – coming out in Aberdeenshire in the early 90s, people being unable to tell whether she is a boy or girl, the assumption that her girlfriend is her daughter. She also quotes from Julian Cope’s The Modern Antiquarian.

The artist has described the piece as being about the fluidity of identity from a queer perspective; an exploration of the intertwining of landscape, body, technology and time.

Farquharson said the jury felt Bridgit was “incredibly impressive in the way that it dealt with lived experience, the formation of a sense of self through disparate references”. He said the work evoked traditions in landscape art and had psychological weight. “It ends up being so unexpectedly expansive. This is not what we expect from video clips shot on iPhones.”

It took the jury more than four hours to reach its decision. “I think the jury was united in a feeling that this work was introducing something new to the filmic medium and how it is used in art,” Farquharson said.

All four nominees – three individuals and a collective – made film work, all of it in some way political. Depending on your perspective, this year’s exhibition was either the most wonderfully captivating in memory or the hardest work. Certainly, it is not a show that should be experienced quickly; the Tate recommends four and a half hours.

It has divided critics. The Observer’s Laura Cumming called it the best in years, “by turns shattering, absorbing, beguiling, highly political, frequently momentous”. Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times wrote: “From beginning to end, this soul-crusher of a show is unusually awful.”

The favourite of many visitors had been Forensic Architecture, a collective that has been described as an “architectural detective agency” investigating state crimes and human rights abuses across the world.

Based at Goldsmiths, University of London, the group consists of architects, film-makers, journalists, archaeologists, scientists, lawyers and software developers. For the Turner prize show, it exhibited the results of its investigations into deaths during a 2017 pre-dawn raid by Israeli police on a Bedouin village in the Negev desert.

The Turner prize, running since 1984, often exasperates and thrills in equal measure and is no stranger to controversy. The closest it came this year was protests against the artist Luke Willis Thompson, a New Zealander of European and Fijian heritage.

Some took exception to his video work Autoportrait, a silent film portrait of Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Philando Castile, who was shot dead by police in Minnesota. Thompson was accused of casting a white, middle-class gaze on cases of black suffering. A group of protesters wearing T-shirts reading Black Pain Is Not for Profit sat in protest on the exhibition sofas in September.

The fourth artist nominated was Naeem Mohaiemen, who exhibited two 90-minute films, one about a man living alone in an abandoned airport, the other about moments in the history of Bangladesh.

The winner was decided by a jury comprising Oliver Basciano, an art critic; Elena Filipovic, director of the Kunsthalle Basel; Lisa Le Feuvre, executive director of the Holt-Smithson Foundation; and the novelist Tom McCarthy.

Last year’s Turner prize exhibition was in Hull. This year’s was in London, and next year the circus rolls on to Margate.

The Turner prize exhibition runs until 6 January.


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