Monday, October 29, 2007

Prizes all round for the Turner at Liverpool Tate

On Sunday Colin, Mike and I went to see the artists' work currently being exhibited in the Liverpool Tate, contenders for the Turner Prize

We were expecting to see lots of people there, the newspapers had reported during the week that one of the lifts had broken down due the unprecedented visitors.

We were asked to take timed tickets to enter this part of the gallery, for 2pm, having arrived at 1.45pm which was remarkably soon really. The Albert Docks were buzzing with people, far more than usual on a Sunday and the gallery was being very well used.

We spent 15 minutes looking at the first floor of 20th century art while we waited for 2pm to come along. I was delighted to see so many works by Bridget Riley who readers may remember I viewed some of at the MIMA - Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art earlier this year.

With one eye on the clock we cut our perusal short and went up to the top floor to the Turner Prize exhibition.

There are four artists exhibiting:

Mike Nelson was the first. His was a maze which began with a pile of fire wood, burnt, with artificial red flames in wax or plastic, flickering from the embers. We walked through a series of closed rooms or cubes perhaps, where tiny eyeholes had been drilled to let the viewer look through and see a mirage of desert and lights repeated by mirrors so that the image went on for miles, the only static point was the reflection of your own eye. This was my favourite, Colin's too.

As we made it through the maze of rooms, we found ourselves back at the burning embers. It was very discombobulating.

We were pretty sure we hadnt gone back on ourselves and there was no door to this room from outside, like there had been when we came in. It transpired that it too was a mirror image.

We walked on to the next exhibit.

I think that was Mark Wallinger.

He had a video exhibit called Sleeper which was filmed in Berlin at the Neue Nationalgalerie. It is him, dressed as a bear, wandering round the art gallery there at night after it has closed. I dont think I want to say too much about this because it was too far away from the kind of art I am familiar with or comfortable about expressing. What I will say though is that you could see in the foreground, because it was filmed from outside the windows of the gallery, looking in, the car lights as they went by and occasionally the reflection of pedestrians. I did spend a while thinking about what it must have been like for anyone walking by who caught sight of a bear wandering round these darkened empty places. Wondering if they were dreaming.

The bear did get a huge amount of votes from the public in the final room.

Then we walked into a room of exhibits by Zarina Bhimji which were large photographs and a couple of short films about her explorations in Eastern African and Ugandan Asia. Beautiful photographs of architectural detail, and a 35mm film about a sisal processing factory. I wondered if it was silk, Mike thought it might be wool but in fact sisal is a product in rope making which gives you a bit of a shiver when you have seen it in its raw and delicate, floaty basic state.

The film doesnt sound great but we watched it for nearly five minutes and it only lasts about 7 minutes so it must have been special. We were still making reference to it and to the factory with the holes in the walls, hours later. I should say though that the video rooms are very dark and you can lose your bearings very quickly, probably not great for people with little children.

We went then to the works of Nathan Coley who I was particularly looking forward to, having heard him being interviewed on BBC Radio Merseyside.

Here was tangible art that you could walk round and peer at close up. Two exhibits interested me. The terraced house, pulled away from its neighbours and exposed, with one gable end having the word "glory" imbedded in it and the other "hope". In a very practical sense I was disappointed that the downstairs front window was not a bay, most terraced houses in Liverpool, which Nathan said this was to represent, do have a bay. I know there are houses without, indeed Hawkins and Grantham come to mind, but to really tug at something familiar a bay would have worked better, Nathan please note. I loved the idea though that a Liverpool terrace, just like my own sweet home could feature so prominently in such an exhibition and with such powerful words accompanying it.

His other exhibtion that I was interested in was a set of scaffolding from which were suspended lights reading "There will be no miracles here".

This in a white room with no real explanation did nothing for me, but later as we sat on the terrace of a bar opposite, and I read the booklet that accompanied the exhibition, I understood the context and appreciated it.

Apparently there is a village in France called Modseine where in the 17th century miracles were common place. This got so far up the nose of the King that he had a poster put up locally saying "There will be no miracles here, by order of the King". The brochure illustrates this story with a photo of the scaffolding in a park with trees and grass and drifts of daffodils.

I know my friends in the Friends of Newsham Park would concur only too well with the erection of this scaffolding and its message somewhere in front of Carstairs Road.

This photo and explanation made it all the more poignant and had either been part of the Tate exhibition, I would have put Nathan and this display first.

From here we walked into the comments room, most of which described the whole thing as "crap".

I love art that makes you think and that engages you and that involves you, that is why I like art that I can walk up to, study from close quarters, art that makes me dizzy, art that makes me stop and go back for a second look.

I suppose that is why I adore the Gormley statues at Crosby so much, because you can hang on to them, dance with them and dress them up.

I dont know yet whether I have entirely embraced modern art, I still love a good watercolour above all else, but I do love tactile statues and curiousities and thought provoking ideas.

Above all though I love that the Turner Prize came to Liverpool and that I and so many others have been able to go and see it and think about it and comment on it and for once the world does not have to revolve around London.

Well done to Christoph Grunenberg and everyone else who brought this to us.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Scaffolding for Newsham with "No miracles here!" Hilarious.

Is Mr Doran the "king" who proclaims that?!

To be honest, we have had the scaffolding - it's just that the sign usually says "Danger. Keep out"!