Installation view of Luke Willis Thompson's autoportrait 2017 and Chisenhale Gallery in London. Courtesy of the artist. Image: Andy Keate

Turner Prize shortlist recognises political activism

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 30.04.2018
Artworks focus on human rights abuse, race and radical socialism
The shortlist for this year’s Turner Prize, announced by Tate Britain last week, focuses on politically engaged works that tackle human rights abuses, police racism, radical socialism and queer identity.

Four nominees have made the shortlist: Forensic Architecture, Naeem Mohaiemen, Luke Willis Thompson and Charlotte Prodger.

The collective Forensic Architecture has been recognised for a series of installations that visualise evidence of human rights abuses around the world. Blending art, architecture and scientific practice, the collective describes its work as an “archaeology of the present”.

It reconstructs cases of state sanctioned violence and war crimes, using 3D modelling and various forms of media, as well as memories and witness testimony.

The collective’s projects include a model of the notorious Saydnaya military prison in Syria, where thousands of inmates are believed to have been tortured and murdered. The reconstruction is now used by Amnesty International to put pressure on the Syrian regime.
The artist and writer Naeem Mohaiemen, who was born in London in 1969 and has Bangladeshi heritage, uses film, essays and installations to explore radical left politics – particularly in South Asia  – covering themes such as colonial identity, migration, exile and political utopia.

The New Zealand-born artist Luke Willis Thompson made the shortlist for his exhibition Autoportrait, which reflects themes of class, racial and social inequality, and institutional violence.

His work includes a silent film of Diamond Reynolds, whose live Facebook broadcast of the fatal shooting of her partner Philando Castile by a police officer attracted worldwide attention in 2016. The film is intended to act as a sister image to Reynolds’ original broadcast, and is described by Tate as an “affecting study of grief”.

The final nominee is the Glasgow-based artist Charlotte Prodger, who has been recognised for her solo exhibition Bridgit/Stoneymollan Trail. Prodger’s autobiographical films are created using a range of new and old technologies, and explore themes of landscape, time and queer identity.

Alex Farquharson, the director of Tate Britain, said: “Following a thoughtful and rigorous debate, this year’s jury has chosen an outstanding group of artists, all of whom are tackling the most pressing political and humanitarian issues of today. This shortlist highlights how important the moving image has become in exploring these debates.”

The £40,000 Turner Prize will be shared between the shortlisted artists, with £25,000 going to the winner and £5,000 to each of the other three nominees. The winning artist will be announced in December 2018.