Nominees for the 2015 Turner Prize Include Three Women Artists and a Housing Project

This year's nomination are even more obscure than last year's. What's going on?

Direct intervention crew Assemble Photo via: Assemble
Direct intervention crew Assemble
Photo via: Assemble

The shortlist for the 2015 Turner Prize is out, and it includes three women and a housing collective: Bonnie Camplin, Janice Kerbel, Nicole Wermers, and the 18-person-strong design and architecture collective Assemble.

The four nominations show a clear tendency towards giving recognition to socially and politically-engaged art, as the Guardian points out. The nomination of London-based collective Assemble, who is credited for reviving a housing project in a derelict area of Liverpool, sets a precedent in the history of the Turner Prize.

“In an age when anything can be art, why not have a housing estate?,” jury-member Alistair Hudson, director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, said when asked about their inclusion.

In addition to Hudson, this year’s judges include Kyla McDonald, the artistic director of Glasgow Sculpture Studios; Joanna Mytkowska, director of the Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej in Warsaw, Poland; and the critic and curator Jan Verwoert.

Penelope Curtis, who is soon to leave her position as director of Tate Britain and who chaired the judging panel, acknowledged that some might find the selection difficult or even inaccessible.

“I think the prize has become more serious,” she told the Guardian. “It has lost some of the sensational aspects it had earlier, and that’s good. In the early days one of the aims was to increase the quality of discussion about contemporary art and I think it has—it’s not so simplistic any more. These artists are posing questions that are hard for all of us.”

For Bonnie Camplin, these questions are funneled into a multimedia work that encourages viewers to confront and critique power structures. Janice Kerbel was nominated for the musical piece DOUG, about a man who goes through nine catastrophic events. German artist Nicole Wermers was shortlisted for an installation featuring Marcel Breuer chairs and fur coats titled Infrastrukur, that tackles consumerism and lifestyle.

The shortlist recalls last year’s Turner prize, awarded to filmmaker Duncan Campbell, where none of the finalists were particularly well-known either (see Turner Prize Nominees a Surprise, As Always).

“This is what’s happening,” Hudson told the Guardian. “It is working away from art as entertainment. These are artists working in very specific circumstances to make something happen, to make something change. It’s very positive for the future of art, they are trying to do something rather than just represent something.”

“If you ask me personally to say what are the most interesting, vibrant things going on in the art world now, I’d say they are the ones that are addressing real situations and actually trying to take part in the world,” Hudson added.

The shortlist was announced today at Tramway in Glasgow, the venue for this year’s exhibition. This sets another historical precedence, as Scotland will host the Turner Prize for the very first time.

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