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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 December 2007, 17:24 GMT
Talking Shop: Mark Wallinger
Mark Wallinger
Mark Wallinger was first nominated for the Turner Prize 12 years ago
The winner of this year's Turner Prize, Mark Wallinger, was praised by the art award's judges for State Britain, a replica of Brian Haw's anti-war protest opposite the Houses of Parliament in London.

He also generated considerable interest with his film Sleeper, where he dressed as a bear.

He reveals what inspires him and what he thinks of people who do not understand art.


How did you feel before it was announced you had won the prize?

Not awfully well. I didn't ever begin to believe that I would win it, so it came as quite a shock.

It was very strange waiting for the envelope to be opened and spending the previous hour and a half trying to not make eye-contact with the judges.

What inspired you to pay homage to Brian Haw?

I started taking photographs of it and I thought it was an amazing document, really. Anyone who took the trouble to cross over the road and have a proper look would have been impressed by the intensity and the insight.

Things started coming together as in May the police introduced new conditions on Brian's protest so it looked like his time might be short.

So on 18 May I took hundreds of digital images of the whole process. I proposed making a replica to the Tate's curator on 22 May, and that very night 78 police arrived to take it all away.

So once that happened it seemed like a public service, almost, to recreate what the police had removed.

Do you know Brian?

Yes, he was up for the awards last night. I came up with him on the train. We're friends. He was delighted with the work and was pleased for me with the result.

On the exhibition comments wall there were quite a few negative comments from visitors. What do you say to that?

I think that's their problem, really. You get out what you put in most things in life, don't you?

What inspired you to make the Sleeper film, dressed as a bear?

A number of things, really. The building in which the bear wandered, the National Gallery, was built in West Berlin in the sixties. I used to pass it quite often and it was like a dark well at night.

Mark Wallinger dressed as a bear in Berlin
Wallinger said visitors started leaving gifts for the bear
I just pictured what might happen if it was illuminated and a single figure or a creature was moving about nocturnally.

We lived in Berlin for a couple of years and you can't help spending a lot of your time imagining what it was like to have lived through the phases of its history.

Essentially, I hoped it would kind of be compelling in a way that would be hard to be described. Much in the same way as if you go to the zoo and see creatures in the tank or if you go and see the bear in the zoo.

It doesn't really matter if he's sleeping - you're still going to look at it. It was an exercise in maintaining the attention of the curious.

Were there are any moments whilst making it that you remember distinctly?

Some nights I could brush the glass and bang on the window and people would run off. And other nights people would look at me as if to say, "Who are you kidding?"

Mark Wallinger's Turner Prize 2007 entry at Tate Liverpool
Wallinger said it felt like a "public service" to make State Britain
There was this weird interaction that happened with people.

People started leaving gifts like honey. It's a very generous public, which I think perhaps wouldn't be the same in this country.

On the seventh night another bear showed up, which is the weirdest thing that ever happened to me. And I never found who did it. It was an enigma.

How do feel being known as the artist who dressed as a bear?

I can live with that - I used to be the artist who painted horses. It makes a change.

What is your favourite piece of your own art?

That's difficult. It tends to vary from time to time. Sleeper is a bit of a favourite one and I was keen to show it properly in the gallery which hadn't happened in this country before.

Do you have to be an art lover to appreciate the works that were entered into the competition?

Well, only to the extent that you have to be a music lover to like certain kinds of music. Art gets a bad press because people seem to think that everything should be instantly explainable.

I think the more you find out about art, the deeper the relationship with it gets and the more open you are to different kind of experiences.

How important is art to you?

Well, I couldn't live without it - so it's that important, really.

Mark Wallinger was talking to BBC News entertainment reporter Fiona Pryor.

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