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Teachers: Citizenship: Arts

Last Updated: Wednesday December 07 2005 11:30 GMT

What is art? The Turner Prize

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Arts in individual and community life


Simon Starling
Installation artist Simon Starling has won this year's Turner Prize. He recycles objects by reframing and reforming them.

Students think about what art is and why art is promoted in society.

Learning aims

  • The range of beliefs over what is good art.
  • How art benefits a society.
  • The ways artistic activity can be encouraged.


    Explain to the class that the artists nominated had to create new pieces especially for a Turner Prize exhibition at the Tate Britain museum in London. The following four paragraphs give you a quick idea of the nominees work.

    Gillian Carnegie: Works within traditional genres of landscape, still life and portraiture. She uses oil on canvas to "explore the properties of painting".

    Jim Lambie
    Darren Almond: Uses a wide range of media including film, photography and sculpture to explore the passing of time. One of his pieces called Meantime takes the form of a giant digital clock inside a steel sea container.

    Jim Lambie: Uses everyday materials to create exuberant installations and sculptures that make references to pop music and youth culture. One piece, Split Endz, is made up of belts and training shoes spilling out of a brightly coloured wardrobe.

    Simon Starling: Specialises in "complex sculptural installations". His work includes a piece titled Tabernas Desert Run, it takes the form of a fuel cell powered bicycle.

    Ask the class: Do things like Simon Starling's bike count as art?

    Ask the class: Which of these have been exhibited as art?

    1. Pile of house bricks laid in a line
    2. Two fighting crocodiles made from egg boxes
    3. A room where the light goes off and on automatically
    4. A giant submarine made of car tyres
    5. A television covered in Christmas wrapping paper
    6. A picture of a tin of soup
    7. A pile of potato peelings
    8. A picture of a pipe with "this is not a pipe" written underneath it
    9. An unmade bed
    10. A man rolling around inside a giant ball of string

    Answers: 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10 have been exhibited as art.

    Ask the students: What is art?

    Main activity

    Students list five ways that artists have contributed to their life so far today.

    Use this list for inspiration:

  • music
  • fashion
  • photography
  • magazines
  • poetry
  • novels
  • sculpture
  • buildings
  • films

    Make a class list.

    ICT activity

    Gillian Carnegie
    Pick one media from the list and take a selection of digital photographs. E.g. Snap different items of clothes to represent fashion.

    Use them to compose a powerpoint presentation. It should include a brief description of the way each example makes the students feel or adds to their lives.

    The way the photographs are manipulated should refelect the students' feelings. E.g. Using the soft focus tool to show the "dreamy" quality of a poem.

    Non-ICT activity

    Students pick five examples from the class list and write a short description of how they make them feel and what they add to their lives.

    Extension activities

    What would life be like without art?
    Students may want to reflect on how life was reported to have been under the Taleban in Afghanistan - with no TV, cinema or music.

    Write down one day's entries from the imaginary diary someone living in a world without art.

    Art at school
    Students imagine they are planning a programme to promote artistic activity at their school. Students draw up an action plan and produce a promotional leaflet . This can be done using a computer package.


    Recap on the main teaching points and ask if holding competitions makes the UK a more artistic place?

    Look at the history of the Turner Prize (see Teachers' Background below), the prize money available and this year's entries. What would students do with the money?

    Teacher's background

    Darren Almond
    The Turner Prize

  • It is awarded each year for an outstanding contribution to British visual art.
  • The cash part of the prize is 25,000. The runners-up receive 5,000 each.
  • Any member of the public may nominate an artist for the prize.
  • The art is often controversial as the artists are young (must be under 50).
  • The prize was established in 1984 by the Tate Gallery, it aims to promote the development of contemporary British art.
  • 2004's winner was artist Jeremy Deller for a film about US President George Bush's home town in Texas.
  • 2003's winner was flamboyant potter Grayson Perry
  • 2002's winner was Keith Tyson who was nominated for a piece that packs computer equipment into a pillar.
  • Previous winners include Gilbert and George, Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Damien Hirst.

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