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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 16:55 GMT
Porn and Perspex at the Turner Prize
Fiona Banner's billboard and giant fullstop
Giant full stops "punctuate" Banner's artworks

The Turner Prize is back again to baffle, bemuse and bewilder with its annual line-up of unusual artworks.

This year's selection includes sculpture, painting, film and photography - something for everyone you might think - but it is still difficult to know what exactly to make of them.

Open in new window : Turner Prize 2002
See the art shortlisted for this year's 20,000 prize

On first impact, the artworks appear odd and somewhat inaccessible. It is not until you see a short film about each artist, including interviews about their work, that it starts to make any real sense.

Fiona Banner's exhibition is perhaps the most startling, and will no doubt win in the headline-hitting stakes because of its sexually explicit nature.


It reveals the innocence of language

Fiona Banner on her description of a porn film

The artist's premise is that language has inherent limitations. By describing subject matter that draws and repels her, she feels she is able to explore its boundaries.

Having already explored the violence of the Vietnam War in her previous work - 1997's The Nam - she is now looking head-on at sex.

Visitors to her exhibition are greeted by a huge white billboard, called Arsewoman in Wonderland, covered in fluorescent pink words which detail every move and squelch from a pornographic film.

Catherine Yass's photographs
Yass also takes high-speed photos of buildings
It is impossible to read the whole thing, but you get the idea fairly quickly. As you scan the words, the obscene ones jump out at you with alarming regularity.

By inviting you to stand in a room full of strangers and read pornography, Banner certainly knows how to make you feel disconcerted, which presumably is the idea.

The room of her works is also broken up by giant sculptures of full stops which "punctuate the space", as she puts it, and if nothing else they provide light relief from her uncomfortable Wordscapes.

Catherine Yass's work in the adjoining room is much easier on the eye, and altogether more enjoyable to explore.


I wanted my work to be about the dreamlike seduction of falling

Catherine Yass

She uses photography and film to look at flying and the fact that many of us have, at some time in our lives, had the urge to be able to fly.

Her works include a bizarrely fascinating film called Descent, shot upside-down from a crane being lowered on a foggy day at Canary Wharf, east London.

Another of her works, called Flight, was commissioned by the BBC and filmed around London's Broadcasting House from a tiny helicopter with a camera attached.

Liam Gillick's exhibition
Gillick's work fills the ceiling of the room it is in
It flies and spins, giving the sensation of precariously hovering around London's rooftops.

An entire ceiling is devoted to the work of Liam Gillick, who believes that "visual environments change behaviours and the way people act".

While this view is hardly groundbreaking, his work is nonetheless attractive and easy on the eye.

His artwork of colourful Perspex acts rather like a stained-glass window, with daylight filtering through it onto the faces of the people below.


Overhead panels withdraw from your eyeline when you are closest to them, so they float overhead while projecting a subtle presence that alters the colour of shadows

Liam Gillick

The room also contains muted sketches of some of his designs, including one commissioned for a beach towel.

His works are perhaps the least thought-provoking of the exhibition, but by trying to "address the unaddressable" his work is open to any interpretation.

The last shortlisted artist, Keith Tyson, has produced a large body of work, which includes sculptures and a wall covered with paintings.

Keith Tyson's Bubble Chambers: 2 Discrete Molecules of Simultaneity
Tyson's work includes preoccupation with the "mysteries of the universe"
He is keen to explore the "perplexing questions underpinning human existence" and one of his sculptures attempts this.

It is a huge, black solid-looking block - called The Thinker After Rodin, and is not unlike the giant black monolith which appears in Stanley Kubrick's ground-breaking film 2001: Space Odyssey.

It contains a bank of unseen computers, whose presence is made known only by the sound of a fan keeping them cool and a tiny red, flashing light on the sculpture.

This depiction of "thought" is interesting, but again needs some explaining before you can get a handle on what his work is about.


I'm fascinated by science's dogmatic determinism: the belief that any event or action arises from hydrogen atoms bashing together after the Big Bang

Keith Tyson
His other works include two paintings called Bubble Chambers, two identical-looking paintings of a colourful molecular structure, with each featuring different events taking place in a sort of parallel universe.

Overall, the exhibition is worth visiting, if only to see what is considered to be at the forefront of British contemporary art. It is certainly a more interesting exhibition than the one put on last year.

Whether it will be an enjoyable experience is another matter, but then it wouldn't be the Turner Prize without a bit of controversy.


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