Girls win prizes

Today the Turner Prize shortlist is announced. The winner will receive pounds 20,000 and acres of publicity. But if you're a man looking for recognition, forget it. Matthew Collings ponders the all female line-up

Hi! We're at a dinner party. Somebody says the magic words - Turner Prize. A question game starts up. Is the Turner Prize a good thing or a bad thing? Should there just not be any prizes for art? Aren't they always a bit ghastly and silly? Why is it always alienated post-modern knick-knack art that's nominated? Where's the drawing and painting and stone-carving? Why do artists talk in a very stilted artificial way that makes you want to kill yourself? Are they like that in real life or only on TV?

These are all good questions. My favourite is the one about stone-carving. Actually there was a stone-carver one year - Tony Cragg. But I think he gets assistants to do his carving for him. And usually they're stone-carvings of dice or rubber stamps or something. Enlarged to monumental size. Not shapely nudes.

Because contemporary art just doesn't go in for that kind of thing. It's all in the mind now. That's why it's called Conceptual Art. And then it's all in how you present their stuff that's in your mind. That's why it's called Installation Art.

So, first of all, as an artist, your mind is a bit post-modern and alienated, because that's what we all are, even if we're not artists. Post-modern means things not meaning what they used to mean but not looking radically different, so it's hard to tell exactly how they've stopped meaning the old things. That applies to everything now - art, life, Top of the Pops. Everything.

And secondly, it would be strange to try and present that in a straightforward stone-carving kind of way, because stone-carving is the same as everything else. It's completely up for grabs as far as meaning goes. For one thing, it's an aesthetic thing and a skill thing (OK, that's two things), and aesthetics and skill are out. At least, they're out in the way that they used to be in. They're not believed in in the way they used to be. In fact, they're still in, but not in the old way. They're in in a new way.

In fact all the artists on the Turner Prize list this year are pretty aesthetic. And pretty skillful. But not in the way Eric Gill used to be. Or Brancusi. More like the way Joseph Beuys used to be. Except not completely like him because his way of not being aesthetic or skillful in the old Brancusi way involved a lot of heavy personal charisma, which is another thing that's more or less out now. It's not considered necessary anymore. Even Damien Hirst, who won the prize last year, is pretty normal in the way he behaves. It's just his art that's weird. But that isn't really weird either because we see it all the time on TV, so we're used it. It's normal.

So really these things aren't impossible to think about or to answer. We're just used to playing the game that they're impossible. What is the Turner Prize for anyway? It's a publicity event, to get the media to pay attention to the achievements of British artists. And the values of everybody outside that, which are even harder to get, of course. But there is a kind of Zeitgeisty generalised worldview of things that a lot of people kind of have. If there wasn't, Today and Start the Week would be impossible to understand. Actually, they really are impossible for a lot of people to understand but then the Turner Prize isn't for them. It's for the Today and Start the Week world. It can't solve everything after all.

Basically it has to show the Radio 4 understanders that it knows what the cutting edge in contemporary art is. But it has to show also that it has a kind of authority and a dignity and identity of its own so everybody outside the cutting-edge world will believe in it. Like Tinkerbell. Except fairies are out now.

So what about the artists this year? Gillian Wearing. Angela Bulloch. Cornelia Parker. Christine Borland. All women and all of them not painting or sculpting. Last year it was all men and one of them was a painter. So it's certainly different. It's different and the same, at the same time. And that's only right.

Who will win? I don't know. If I was a judge, I'd probably vote for Gillian Wearing because she does a very direct kind of art where the thoughts and sayings and fantasies and behaviour of incredibly real people, mostly not Radio 4 understanders are the subject. She's dark and outsider-ish and a bit dysfunctional. And that's all good, too, especially within the context of the Turner Prize, which is a bit white and shiny and highbrow.

Christine Borland is a kind of Conceptual Art version of the way Start the Week mostly talks about science and Steven Hawking nowadays, and not so much about cultural things. We're suddenly fascinated by pop science but we don't know why and she's picked up on that. She does experiments and investigations, like firing a rifle at a piece of glass and then exhibiting the glass with the holes in it and listing the exact velocity and gauge of the bullet and width of glass and so on. Or getting some real bone fragments and having a forensic head-reconstruction artist make a head from them. Which is kind of fascinating. So she could get the prize because it's a way of showing that contemporary art is fascinated by the same things that everyone else is on to.

Another thing everybody finds fascinating is ordinary familiar things and that's Cornelia Parker's area, so she could get the prize too. She got an old shed and blew it up once and then exhibited the fragments. It was completely blown up into a million pieces but it was still an old shed that a real person had pottered about in once.

But maybe I'd give it to Angela Bulloch. Just because she's so relaxed about modern life. They all Post-Warhol artists - they make art out of modern life but then they kind of fold their arms and shrug and leave the audience to work out the meaning. But she's the most purely Warholian. She does installations with blinking light bulbs and giant floppy bean bags and the remains of take-away meals and environmental soundtracks of overheard conversations that don't particularly seem to be going anywhere. It's art that looks so relaxed and inclusive and unjudgemental about anything that at first you think, "uh?" But after you've been going round it for a while, you wonder if perhaps everyone else isn't being a bit obvious

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears