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
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
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.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat