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State of the art
By Mark Steyn
A HEAD of the official announcement this Wednesday, The Daily Telegraph is proud to bring you the 2001 Turner Prize shortlist:
1) The Taliban
This controversial yet always arresting group of young Afghan artists this year cemented their reputation with a provocatively original approach to the medium of sculpture. In their exhibition Rubble, the Taliban proved not only that they remain cutting-edge artists, but that, if that doesn't work, they're happy to use sticks of dynamite and rocket launchers.
Challenging our most basic concepts of wholeness, the Taliban's work plays with and ultimately deconstructs traditional notions of religious iconography. "What makes the Taliban so exciting," says one Hindu critic, "is their willingness to explode sacred cows. Whoops, there goes one now." The exhibition originally opened in the town of Bamiyan earlier this year, but shortly after could be seen throughout a wide surrounding area.
2) Nick Brown
In the forefront of the new generation of gay British artists, this blazingly original thinker caught the mood of the nation with his series of often disturbing installations, Pyres I - MMMCLIV. Working in cow, sheep and other traditional materials, Brown has nevertheless managed to radically reinvent the form.
"He makes Damien Hirst look like Sir Hugh Casson," commented one critic. "What makes it work so brilliantly is the element of sacrificial death ritual but on a breathtaking scale - a fusion, if you like, of suttee and sweep," said another critic, perhaps a little too pleased with himself.
Despite these reviews, Brown disdains the frenzied hype of the British art world. Even as his installations were spreading from county to county, the reclusive artist insisted that he would rather people didn't go and look at them. "Keep well away," he told sophisticated London art-goers. "Stay at home. If you have to go anywhere near, just drive past. Or, if you feel you must stop, don't park off the tarmac and, whatever you do, stay in your car."
Few artists have so challenged our preconceptions about the boundary between art and audience.
3) The Palm Beach County Canvassing Board
This group of Florida artists proved a surprise hit in America last year, with their long-running show re:Count. The three miniaturists work with small pieces of paper, all of which appear at first to be identical. But, in a well-lit gallery space, such as a county court basement, subtle differences emerge - here a pregnant chad, there the faintest of dimples, marks barely discernible yet shattering in their implications.
And yet, when one is drawn irresistibly back to the works one saw just a moment ago, they seem to have changed yet again: the hole has got a little bigger, the indentation more pronounced. A work ostensibly born of the cold uniformity of automated processing has evolved into an exploration of human imprecision.
As thousands of Al Gore's lawyers have pointed out, the pieces of paper work on a number of levels. At one level, it appears to be a vote for Pat Buchanan. Yet, in a more profound sense, is it not perhaps a vote for Al Gore? Or, as the Bush lawyers argue, does it not confront us with the ultimate paradox? That the only valid interpretation is that there is no valid interpretation?
4) John Prescott
As with many artists intrigued by questions of identity, John Prescott has chosen to make an exhibition of himself. In his one-man show, Fist, Prescott, working mainly with knuckles, evolves a distinctive interactive style that reverses conventional ideas about artist and viewer.
In Prescott's hands, the viewer himself becomes the work of art, a hitherto blank canvas suddenly a riot of vibrant purple swellings and intense crimson gashes. "Prescott is everything art should be," said critic Sarah Kent. "He's raw, visceral, dangerous. He's in your face, if you don't step back quickly enough."
"His influences are obvious," added Brian Sewell, visiting the exhibition the other day. "On the one hand, Chagall's series of totally black canvasses. On the other, Picasso's blue period. But he's fused them to create his own black and blue period. That's to say, you'll be black and blue for a period. It's almost exquisitely banal in its derivaaeeeioaaeiooueiurgh! What did you do that for, you bastard? I think you've broken my nose."
5) The Turner Prize
This year, the fifth nominee on the Turner Prize shortlist is the office that typed up the shortlist. This marks the first time the judges have honoured an artist working in the genre of press releases. We were especially impressed by the sense of spatial awareness, specifically the double spacing and wide margins, which seem to us to have decisively reinvigorated the exhausted medium of ink on paper.
And yet, as one examines the work, one gradually becomes aware of the staple in the top left-hand corner, its harsh metallic prongs stabbing the pages and forcing one to consider anew the creative tension between order and pain, between the surface calm of the paper and the sudden stabbing violence of the staple that holds them together, in the same way that society's veneer is intimately bound up by violence.
All in all, a big improvement on last year's paper clip.
-- Anonymous, May 25, 2001
-- Anonymous, May 26, 2001
-- Anonymous, May 26, 2001