Turner Prize 2019 shortlist: Artist who interviewed former detainees of a notorious Syrian jail faces filmmaker and sculptor

A creative who examines ‘feminine subjectivity and experience through a gothic/science-fiction lens’ rounds off the shortlist

Jack Shepherd
Wednesday 01 May 2019 10:33 BST
Clockwise from left to right: Tai Shani, Oscar Murillo, Helen Cammock and Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Clockwise from left to right: Tai Shani, Oscar Murillo, Helen Cammock and Lawrence Abu Hamdan (PA)

This year’s Turner Prize shortlist has been announced, with an artist who conducted interviews with former detainees of a notorious Syrian jail leading the way.

The other three nominees include a London-based filmmaker, a Columbian-born sculptor and Tai Shani, who explores “feminine subjectivity and experience through a gothic/science-fiction lens”.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, an “audio investigator”, used survivor testimonies from Saydnaya – a high-security prison that has been described as an “architectural instrument of torture” – to create a sound installation.

Inmates had been subjected to total sensory deprivation and forced to live in darkness in the prison, which is operated by the Assad regime.

The 34-year-old artist, who lives in Beirut, “used sound effects to help six survivors recall their audio memories, to map the unknown architecture of the prison and to understand what happened there”.

Hamdan’s interviews were part of an audio investigation by Amnesty International and research group Forensic Architecture (who were nominated for the Turner Prize last year). The recordings were interspersed with re-enacted whispers in the installation.

Filmmaker Helen Cammock, 48, has also been shortlisted for her work about the history and role of women in the civil rights movement in Derry in 1968.

The work “weaves together various archive materials, newly produced footage and a series of interviews Cammock made with women active in the movement, as well as those affected by it”.

Colombian-born Oscar Murillo, 33, has used industrial ovens to make “sculptures made of corn mixed with clay, resembling rocks or bread, in a work addressing consumption, labour and basic human sustenance. The sculptures were piled up in heaps or bulged out of intestine-like forms, along with stuffed cloth torsos, printed with workers’ slogans and international trade routes.”

Murillo’s work explores “materials, process and labour, as well as issues of migration, community, exchange and trade in today’s globalised world”.

Tai Shani, 42, a self-taught artist who lives in London, completes the shortlist.

Works by the four shortlisted artists will be displayed from 28 September 2019 to 12 January 2020 at Turner Contemporary in Margate. The winner of the £40,000 prize will be announced on 3 December at an award ceremony, which will be broadcast live on the BBC.

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