A bearded lady, human excrement having sex, The Woolworth's Choir and Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing...Turner Prize 2012 contenders go on show

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Drawings of human excrement having sex in public have gone on show at Tate Britain - alongside performances by a bearded female artist who lives in a nudist colony and changed her name to Spartacus.

The works are featured in this year's Turner Prize exhibition by the four artists who have been shortlisted for the controversial art prize.

Northumberland-born Paul Noble, 48, has displayed his drawings of a fictional city, Nobson Newton, whose inhabitants are living excrement and in some scenes engage in orgies.

Click here or on "View Gallery" for pictures of the exhibition

Spartacus Chetwynd, 38, who lives and works in a south London nudist colony, has choreographed two live performances, one of them featuring herself.

In one, members of the audience are invited to lie down prostrate before an "oracle" puppet who whispers predictions such as "you face a loveless future", "beware of Dave", "you will lose your mobile phone next week" and "84% of people have more sense than you".

Chetwynd, who changed her name from Lali in tribute to the Roman gladiator on her 33rd birthday, takes part in another performance, the Biblical story in which the crowd, when offered a choice of whether to have Jesus or Barabbas released from custody, was persuaded to save the common criminal.

Chetwynd, whose work addresses ideas of democracy, was wearing a beard to the preview of the exhibition.

"It's meant to be a special evening for me. I haven't had time to find a dress so I thought if I put a beard on with an old dress it will be a scintillating combination," she said.

She said of her shortlisted work: "In contrast to democracy, these shows are meant to be celebrating political ineptitude."

The artist, who is mother to a three-month-old boy, added of her lifestyle: "Being a nudist is quite natural to me. It's quite a normal community ... we all share meals together and put on projects together.

"People being themselves without wearing clothes works for me ... on a metaphysical level I have no boundaries as a person... Being a nudist fits in with that."

She said of the "oracle" performance: "The audience are picked out to lie full body prostrate and lower themselves in front of the oracle.

"Then they're told something like 'you will get food poisoning'. It's a little bit like the humiliation on The X Factor."

The show's curator Sofia Karamani said that Noble's drawings were not designed to shock.

She said: "There are motifs throughout his work. Poo is just one of them... In some cases they are traces of human beings left behind. In other cases they are deities.

"The artist doesn't see it as something dirty. ...It's the one thing that connects us to the animal world. He doesn't want it to be shocking ... it's part of the work."

The two other shortlisted artists are Glaswegian Luke Fowler, 34, who shows a film about Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing, and Londoner Elizabeth Price, 45, a former member of 1980s pop band Talulah Gosh, whose film The Woolworths Choir Of 1979 features the blaze that took place in the Manchester store.

The Turner Prize, which goes to an artist under 50, born, living or working in Britain for an outstanding recent exhibition of their work, will be awarded at Tate Britain on December 3.

The show opens tomorrow and runs until January 6.

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