I’ve never devoted an entry exclusively to the Turner Prize shortlist before, but as BBC arts editor Will Gompertz kept emphasizing this morning, three out of this year’s group of four artists are filmmakers—or at the very least, they incorporate filmmaking into their work.
“This is an unexpected shortlist,” writes Guardian art critic Adrian Searle. “It baffles me, and for once I’m stumped. Best known for his quasi-documentary films on Irish peace activist Bernadette Devlin and ill-fated car-maker John DeLorean, Duncan Campbell is nominated for his film installation in the Scottish pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale, It for Others. Campbell’s film was concocted from a strange mix of footage: African masks and other artefacts, images of perfume bottles and snack packaging, and shots from a dance piece by British choreographer Michael Clark in which the performers, shot from above, contort themselves into the shapes of equations. Campbell’s film was not without its pleasures, but was terribly long. It lost me somewhere. Bravely, and perhaps unwisely, he paired this work with a projection of Chris Marker and Alain Resnais‘ 1953 film Les Statues Meurent Aussi (Statues Also Die), about the commodification of African sculpture. It was all too easy to abandon Campbell for Resnais and Marker.”
In 2010, Paul Teasdale wrote in frieze about the work of James Richards, who “draws from a broad range of easily accessible images: online clips, other artists’ films, as well as classic features culled from a variety of disparate sources such as the Lux archive (where he was associate artist from 2007–8), Internet streams and television. Continuing in the long tradition of remixing appropriated material (from Scratch video artists, such as Guerilla Tapes and George Barber, to the sampling techniques of early hip-hop producers), Richards’s carefully constructed film installations move past Scratch video methodology to involve sculptural and curatorial considerations.” Kari Rittenbach had a good long talk with Richards for Rhizome last September.
Introducing an interview with Tris Vonna-Michell for Mousse, Caterina Riva notes that his “artistic practice is an explosive mix of music, literature, slang and rhythm: imagine Tristram Shandy catapulted in the present in the guise of an MC. His performances are the mise-en-scène of stories which he creates by coalescing heroic and less heroic moments, with swift links between far away geographical places and people not belonging to the same time era.”
“If a decade ago you’d asked me to predict which unlikely medium was going to capture the imagination of a new bunch of artists who grew up in the digital age and were educated in an era which might be seen as the high watermark of art theory, I would have openly scoffed if you told me it would be the genteel art of printmaking,” wrote Moira Jeffrey for the Scotsman last year. “But then along came artists like Ciara Phillips, an Irish Canadian who, based in Glasgow since she studied for her MFA there, has been quietly proselytizing on behalf of print and rallying like-minded artists into activities like Poster Club, a loose artists’ collective utilizing her screen-printing skills for artists of radical bent.”
Update: The BBC’s Tim Masters talks with frieze co-editor Jennifer Higgie, Chris Wainwright, pro vice-chancellor at the University of the Arts in London, and Sarah Monk, director of the London Art Fair, about the shortlist. And at Hyperallergic, Jillian Steinhauer has notes on all four artists.