A mannequin on a toilet and dry porridge – it's the Turner Prize

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The Independent Culture

The Turner Prize, the annual award for artists that never ceases to raise furious debate on what constitutes art and what should be dismissed as nonsense, yesterday proved it was not about to change the habit of a lifetime.

Artfully arranged old porridge bowls, a naked mannequin squatting on a lavatory and a clip from The Simpsons cartoon were among offerings at Tate Britain, unveiled for the first time since the selected artists, Mark Leckey, Goshka Macuga, Runa Islam and Cathy Wilkes, were announced.

There was sculpture, installations and film – but no figurative painting.

Wilkes, 42, from Glasgow, has created a sprawling installation comprised of a supermarket checkout with remnants of salad and dried porridge left in bowls by her young son and daughter, as well as a baby buggy and a naked mannequin on a toilet seat.

Leckey, 44, from London, drew on his career-long fascination with Felix the Cat and Jeff Koons' rabbit to create videos and sculptures of animals. A key part of his entry is a lecture, entitled Cinema-in-the-Round, which features a voiceover by Leckey and an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer registers his horror as he turns into a three-dimensional being.

Bangladesh-born Islam, 37, presents three short films, one featuring a dream-like sequence of a woman knocking porcelain crockery off museum plinths, a film of a group of rickshaw drivers in Dhaka taking a rest on the first day of spring, and a video entitled Cinematography, shot in a film apparatus workshop in New Zealand.

Macuga's work is arguably the most impenetrable and has been branded as "academic" in its references to art history. The Polish artist, 41, has remade two large glass and steel sculptures originally created by German architects Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe for one part of her entry, and has made collages from works by the artists Paul Nash and Eileen Agar.

Carolyn Kerr, curator of the exhibition, defended the £25,000 accolade, the winner of which will be announced on 1 December. She said: "Turner was derided in his day for his paintings which were incredibly impressionistic, way before the Impressionists. Art has always been controversial. It's one of its functions to test and question."

Outside the gallery, the Stuckists art group handed out leaflets with the message "The Turner Prize is Crap", in their continuing protest at the Tate's sidelining of figurative painting.

Turner Prize 2008 by Michael Glover

*Cathy Wilkes' room-sized sculptural installation is called I Give You All My Money. Her questions are about what random objects mean when gathered together. In this case they include a child's buggy, various dirty bowls with smeary spoons in them, and a stepladder juxtaposed with a pair of naked mannequins hung with baubles and bits of wood.

*Runa Islam is a film-maker who dissects films and shows us how they work upon us. The films are often slow and repetitive because human beings are forgetful and unobservant. The best of the three on display here is First Day of Spring 2005, a portrait of a gaggle of Bangladeshi rickshaw drivers doing almost nothing until a tremendous call to action.

*Mark Leckey has brought together a host of odd bits and pieces – a longish film, and a short one; a poster; a dusty old maquette of his studio space; a photo of that same space reflected through a silly sculpture by Jeff Koons. The puzzling over what it might mean is all mixed up with the making. It is about process, not about finished product.

*Goskha Macuga is presenting two bodies of work. The first is a series of wall-hung, photographic collages that meldtogether images by two British Surrealists, Eileen Agar and Paul Nash. Nash provides the photographic backgrounds and Agar the cut-outs of the human figure. Elements of the human bodies are echoed in the backgrounds they are given.