Real life behind reality TV in line for Turner Prize
Thursday 23 November 2006
They could have been strong contenders for one of the finest Jerry Springer shows ever. A woman portrayed as a "psychotic mother", a 50-year-old whose tummy tuck went septic and new teeth fell out after a £200,000 makeover and a man duped by a "chick with a dick".
Except the nine guests were meeting the press yesterday to claim they had been victims of reality TV shows. Not only were they seeking to put the record straight but their stories were also being passed off as "art" by Phil Collins, this year's shortlisted Turner Prize nominee, who was filming the proceedings for a video installation.
Collins' shortlisted work at Tate Britain's Turner Prize exhibition comprises a video installation of former TV show participants from Turkey who speak about being misrepresented, alongside a fully functioning production company seeking to find their British counterparts.
After months of research, these nine people's stories can be seen as Collins' artistic work in progress. Jan, a mother who felt her family had been grossly misrepresented as out-of-work travellers in one show, kicked off the proceedings by railing against the ethics of the production company that spent two and half years working with her.
Lindsay was next. She was taken to the US for a £200,000 plastic surgery package, including work on her teeth, laser eye treatment, a facelift, tummy tuck and liposuction, for a makeover show.
"I was given a contract the night before. Four days later, I had a full facelift, six days later I had a tummy tuck and that's when things started going wrong for me. I was in pain. I had 300 stitches in my tummy and four days later, I had to have my hair done, which meant sitting for hours. Inside your stomach, you have tubes and you can hardly walk. They told me in two days, you're having your liposuction. I was thinking, 'there's no way'. Later I found out I had an infection," she said. She says the dental work proved shoddy - with several teeth breaking or falling out - and she needs to wear glasses for perfect vision.
Claire spoke of the intrusive film company that attempted to pit her against her mother-in-law, while Kerry expressed her anger at the crew - who she had drafted in to help her with her 10-year old son - for portraying her as "some psychotic mother".
Marc had answered an ad asking for men prepared to be whisked off to a luxury resort, where they could win £10,000, and spend time with a glamour model. "I knew there could be a catch but I didn't know what," he said. The catch was Miriam, the glamour model, who turned out to be a pre-op transsexual.
Everyone agreed that yesterday's press conference was cathartic, but were they now being exploited by Collins and was this even art?
Jan was quick to run to Collins' defence. "I don't understand a sheep in a box but this reflects life." Yes, agreed Claire: "The story today is the reality of reality TV shows." The disgruntled reality contestants had spoken.
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