TV Review: The Turner Prize Discussion

Chief amongst their tormentors was the artist Tracey Emin, not quite legless (since she lurched out halfway through the programme) but certainly well beyond the reach of reason. At first the other guests (and the studio director) simply tried to pretend she wasn't there - much as you do when some weirdo gets on a tube train and begins ranting on about the risen Christ

I still can't decide whether The Turner Prize Discussion (Channel Four) was a satire on contemporary art or a satire on arts television. That it was a comedy of some kind - and of quite a high order - isn't in doubt, but the feelings it aroused were curiously mixed; at one moment incredulous giggles (take a bow Norman Rosenthal, blazoned on both cheeks with lipstick kisses), at the next sympathy for individuals who found themselves trapped in a purgatory of artificial controversy. . But in the end it proved impossible - as Roger Scruton tried to clarify exactly what it was he did think (as opposed to the diagrammatic opinion he had been cast to represent) he was overwhelmed by a voice slurring "you're wrong, you're wrong, you're wrong". "It's true that my understanding doesn't extend to the areas you currently inhabit," he replied, but Emin didn't register the professorial rebuke. "You people have lost me..." she said resignedly, "you've lost me now." "Do you think that's a generational thing, Tracey?" the presenter asked desperately, with a sobriety that he must have been praying would prove infectious. But by now Tracey was plucking at her clothing - "I wanna be free," she moaned as she tried to untangle her microphone, "I wanna be free."

Several of those she left behind looked as if they longed to follow her example, but though everyone stayed in their seats there were other defections of a more intellectual nature. Having pocketed the cheque to help set up the programme's adversarial structure (a pro and anti debate about the status of painting) Waldemar Januszczak then cheekily washed his hands of the whole affair: "I think it's a phoney argument," he declared, insisting that he didn't think painting was dead at all. He merely wanted to raise his voice against the oppressive contemporary dogma that painting was the only way to make art - a monster that proved quite easy to slay, since it existed nowhere but in his own imagination. He was a bit fed up, he went on, of having his views caricatured. "You are your own caricature, aren't you," observed Roger Scruton loftily and then (I think it was him, but the words were spoken offscreen) someone added a weary addendum: "Indeed all of us."

Whoever said it was right - but it wasn't really the participants' faults, nor that of the embattled presenter (Tim Marlow), who struggled on pluckily against insuperable odds (they should have been playing "Abide With Me" through his earpiece, so valiant were his efforts to keep the ship afloat). The icebergs that sank this vessel were the two long-established vices of television debate - the dread that rational agreement might break out unless antagonisms are carefully nurtured and the habitual overmanning, which makes any kind of sustained dialogue all but impossible. There were 10 guests here (until Emin's departure), each of whom felt obliged to disentangle themselves from the wreckage of the discussion so far before they could add their own points. In the end it was a case of every man for himself and, like all shipwrecks, it proved dreadfully compelling.

My dictionary defines an arch as "a curved structure of firm material, either bearing weight or merely ornamental". Modern Times' (BBC2) film about the occupants of some of London's railway arches would meet the second of those descriptions, I think. It was most artfully ornamental at times - marked by sudden shifts in tempo from the contemplative to the urgent, from deference to its subjects to an impertinent indifference to them. It was also full of curiosities, from subterranean fetish clubs to Dickensian manufactories, and of intriguing inventions too - like the sequences in which a policeman's interview was chopped into a long string of unconnected buzzwords - "rats", "hypothermia", "slaughter", "quite audacious". But could it bear any weight besides its own elegant form? I wouldn't risk it myself.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Employment Solicitor

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    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
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    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