Turner Prize announces its 2012 shortlist

This year's shortlist encompasses a mixture of art forms.

It's that time of year again: the shortlist for the Turner Prize has been announced. Spartacus Chetwynd, Luke Fowler, Paul Noble and Elizabeth Price have all been shortlisted for the award.

The Turner Prize was founded in 1984. The winner, chosen from a group of British artists under the age of 50 who has contributed significantly to the British contemporary art scene, is awarded £25,000, while the other three shortlisted each receive £5,000. 

Last year, the award was won by the Scottish sculptor Martin Boyce for his installation Do words have voices. The award ceremony, held at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, was interrupted by the international streaker Mark Roberts who was hired by the artist Benedikt Dichgans. 

So what of the artists on this year's shortlist?

Spartacus Chetwynd

Lali Chetwynd was born and bred in London and changed her name to Spartacus - in a tribute to the Roman gladiator - in 2006. The 38-year-old is best known for her work as a performance artist, having created theatre which blurs the boundaries between performer and spectator. She encompasses a variety of art forms into her work and designs and makes the costumes and sets for her theatre. 

Chetwynd is nominated for her solo "exhibition" Odd Man Out which was at Sadie Coles HQ in London last year. Her work consisted of a five-hour theatre performance using puppetry and exploring the themes of democracy, political disengagement and the right and responsibility of voting. 

Luke Fowler

Glaswegian Luke Fowler focuses on film making. The 34-year-old has made a series of films looking at public figures who he is particularly fascinated by. He made a trilogy of films about the life of psychiatrist RD Laing, the third of which, All Divided Selves, premiered at Inverleith House in Edinburgh last year. In 2006 he released the film Pilgrimage from Scattered Points about the Scottish composer Cornelius Cardew. Both men are seen to be on the fringes of society.

Fowler is nominated for his work exhibited at Inverleith House, including the film All Divided Selves, 50 new photographs in his Two Frames photo series, and the installation Ridges on a Horizontal Plane.

Paul Noble

Paul Noble, who was born in Northumberland, now lives and works in London and is one of the five founding members of the influential artists' space, City Racing. The 38-year-old is best known for his depictions of the fictional dystopian metropolis Nobson Newton, which he has worked on for the past 16 years.

Noble is nominated for the continuation of his Nobson Newton drawings, exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in London. The exhibition included his centrepiece, a seven-metre wide drawing across 20 sheets of paper which took him four years to create. The settlements he depicts are famous for resembling human turds.

Elizabeth Price

45-year-old Elizabeth Price encorporates moving image, text and music in her work. Her films focus on still objects and explore our relationsip with materialism. Price, who is originally from Bradford but now lives in London, is famous for her film West Hinder 2012, which was inspired by the sinking of a cargo ship in 2002 with nearly 3,000 luxury cars on board. The soundtrack to the film consisted of technical vocabulary from the cars' instruction manuals and marketing information.

Price, who used to be in the 1980s pop group Talulah Gosh, is nominated for her trilogy of installations at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.

The winner of the Turner Prize 2012 will be announced on 3 December 2012 at Tate Britain.

A still from Luke Fowler's film All Divided Selves. Photo by The Modern Institute/Tony Webster Ltd
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Bertie Carvel's diary: What would the French think about infidelity to Doctor Foster?

The joy of debuting a new series, Rupert Murdoch's squeamishness and a sting in the tail.

According to the adage, the first thing an actor does when he gets a job is to go on holiday. And so, having finished our sold-out run of James Graham’s Ink at the Almeida and with the show (in which I play a young Rupert Murdoch) about to transfer into the West End, I’m packing my bags.

But before I can skip town, I’ve one more professional engagement: the press launch of series two of the BBC drama Doctor Foster, which we finished filming at Christmas. I’ve now seen the final cut of all five episodes, and I’m excited to share it with an audience. There’s no substitute for seeing other people’s reactions at first hand, especially with a show that got people talking so much first time around, and it’s electric to sit in a cinema full of expectant journalists and commentators and feel the room respond. Nothing beats this: to put so much into making a thing and then experience an audience’s unmediated, reflexive reaction. When it goes well, you feel that you’ve shared something, that you’ve all recognised something together about how things are. It’s a unifying feeling. A sort of bond.

Cheating spouses

Handling the interviews has been tricky, when there’s so little one can say without giving the plot away. (The first series began with Suranne Jones’s character Gemma, a GP, suspecting her husband Simon of having an affair.) What’s more, lots of the questions invite moral judgements that I’ve tried my best to avoid; I always think it’s really important not to judge the characters I play from outside, but simply to work out how they feel about themselves, to zero in on their point of view. There’s a sort of moral bloodlust around this show: it’s extraordinary. People seem to want to hear that I’ve been pilloried in the street, or expect me to put distance between myself and my character, to hang him out to dry as a pariah.

While I’m not in the business of defending Simon Foster any more than I’m in the business of attacking him, I am intrigued by this queer mixture of sensationalism and prurience that seems to surface again and again.

Shock horror

Oddly enough, it’s something that comes up in Ink: many people have been surprised to find that, in a story about the re-launch of the Sun newspaper in 1969 as a buccaneering tabloid, it’s the proprietor who considers dropping anchor when the spirit of free enterprise threatens to set his moral compass spinning.

I’ve never given it much thought before, but I suppose that sensationalism relies on a fairly rigid worldview for its oxygen – the SHOCKERS! that scream at us in tabloid headlines are deviations from a conventional idea of the norm. But what’s behind the appetite for this sort of story? Do we tell tales of transgression to reinforce our collective boundaries or to challenge them?

For me there’s a close kinship between good journalism and good drama. I’m reminded of the words of John Galsworthy, who wrote Strife, the play I directed last summer, and who felt that the writer should aim “to set before the public no cut-and-dried codes, but the phenomena of life and character, selected and combined, but not distorted, by the dramatist’s outlook, set down without fear, favour, or prejudice, leaving the public to draw such poor moral as nature may afford”.

So when it comes to promoting the thing we’ve made, I’m faced with a real conundrum: on the one hand I want it to reach a wide audience, and I’m flattered that there’s an appetite to hear about my contribution to the process of making it; but on the other hand I think the really interesting thing about the work is contained in the work itself. I’m always struck, in art galleries, by how much more time people spend reading the notes next to the paintings than looking at the paintings themselves. I’m sure that’s the wrong way around.

Insouciant remake

En route to the airport the next morning I read that Doctor Foster is to be adapted into a new French version. It’s a cliché verging on racism, but I can’t help wondering whether the French will have a different attitude to a story about marital infidelity, and whether the tone of the press coverage will differ. I wonder, too, whether, in the home of Roland Barthes, there is as much space given to artists to talk about what they’ve made – in his 1967 essay, “The Death of the Author”, Barthes wrote that “a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination”.

No stone unturned

Touring the villages of Gigondas, Sablet and Séguret later that evening, I’m struck by the provision of espaces culturels in seemingly every commune, however small. The French certainly give space to the work itself. But I also notice a sign warning of a chat lunatique, so decide to beat a hasty retreat. Arriving at the house where I’m staying, I’ve been told that the key will be under a flowerpot. Lifting each tub in turn, and finally a large flat stone by the door, I find a small scorpion, but no key. I’m writing this at a table less than a yard away so let’s hope there won’t be a sting in this tale.

Ink opens at the Duke of York Theatre, London, on 9 September. More details: almeida.co.uk

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear