Congratulations to Martin Boyce for winning this year’s Turner Prize

Last night, I watched the prize being announced on channel 4 and was struck by how popular and glossy the annual event had become.

It seems that the Turner Prize has finally become respectable with Channel 4 putting together a new format for the prize coverage, no doubt aimed at a cross section of audiences and not just the usual insider’s only contemporary art crowd.

Now it seems that non art experts are just as good at telling the British public what it’s all about and who should win and why.   In was wheeled Culture Show favorite, Lauren Laverne to host the show. With Goldie (an odd choice by anyone’s standards) and art critic, Matthew Collings (looking pretty miffed to be sharing a panel with a DJ of reality TV fame), discussing the pros and cons of the nominees work and making a stab at who was going to win the coveted prize.

What a strange mixture of references this program was, with Mario Testino presented the prize, no less. Fashion’s own darling of photography and friend to millionaires and royalty around the world. At times, I was more curious to know who had decided to put this motley crew together, than which of the four nominated artists was going to win.

You had to admire Matthew Colling’s efforts to explain to Goldie, that an emotional response is not always what an artist is looking to provide within a piece of art. Sadly, Collin’s gallant attempts failed, as Goldie blathered on repetitively about Air-Fix model paint and how moved he was by the nostalgia of the piece.

This expectation of an emotional response to art is an interesting problem and one I feel is shared with poetry. That is to say that some people expect art and poetry to give them an emotional response that they know and recognize. They expect a work of art or poem to somehow remind them of an emotion or to take them back to an occasion when they experienced it.

I beg to differ and so does contemporary art. I think that an experience of art or poetics, although possibly similar to an emotional response of joy, nostalgia, sadness etc is actually different. It is a unique experience of art or poetics. And as such is not a heightened experience of any other recurring human emotion. Contemporary art and contemporary innovative poetry places the question, what is art or poetry within the fabric of the artwork or poem, forcing enquiry as part of the piece, to aide an experience of art or poetics.

When asked by Laverne about his future career prospects Martin Boyce replied, something to the effect of:

‘Don’t you know, I’ve just won the Turner Prize?

He then went on to articulate how influential the Turner Prize has been in bringing contemporary art to the wider British public over the last 25 years:

Even if people don’t care about art, they still know it’s art,” he says. “I think the Turner Prize has been part of that process that has allowed people, whether they

like it or are interested in art… they know it’s art, and that’s a big step.”

My hope is that something like this (possibly minus Mario and Goldie) will happen to contemporary innovative poetry. That more people would start to know more about contemporary innovative poetry and to think about the questions it raises. Maybe then they would realize that the question of poetry, like the question of art, is valid, interesting and can be out there, discussed by many, as the Turner Prize has proven.

You never know this could be beginning. John Kinsella is on the shortlist for the T.S Ellot Prize 2011. I wonder who will be presenting the award?


– Alison Gibb


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mike Loveday
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 01:20:55

    Alison, according to Facebook gossip, re. John Kinsella – not any more. He and Alice Oswald have withdrawn themselves from TSE prize consideration, because the prize is being sponsored by an investment fund, called Aurum.


    • Mike Loveday
      Dec 07, 2011 @ 01:47:20

      Gossip aside, I’m wondering:

      (and maybe what follows is contentious)

      should individual artworks actually be asking the question “what is art?”
      Does contemporary music ask “what is music?”
      Should it?
      Does poetry need to ask the same question?

      Maybe an individual poem’s status as a poem should be self-evident?

      Leave it to competitions, prize-giving discussions, pub conversations or the critics to ponder where the artform as a whole is headed, to pursue the kind of inquiry you allude to?

      The experimental edges of any artform will always push boundaries and stretch that artform into new territory. Does art which fits the currently accepted template for its artform (i.e. which doesn’t raise the question “is this art?”) somehow fall short as a result?

      (Or I wonder does any artform’s need for to ask the question “what is art/poetry/[equivalent]?” vary according to the artform?
      Perhaps some artforms are inherently more “interrogative” than others. Perhaps contemporary art asks “what is art” for example, more than contemporary music asks “what is music”?
      Out of interest I wonder if contemporary conceptual art asks “what is art?” more than contemporary painting does? Does this matter?


      • Alison Gibb
        Dec 07, 2011 @ 09:57:47

        That’s a shame about John Kinsella and Alice Oswald, I didn’t know.
        Just to be clear I wasn’t comparing contemporary art to music, but to innovative contemporary poetry. Poetry that is concerned with poetics, which I believe shares a space of understanding and activity alongside art. Also, that the Turner Prize, good or bad etc, had gone someway to bring the ideas of contemporary art to wider audience and has shown that people outside of the art world, will take it on.

  2. Mike Loveday
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 11:12:46

    Yeah, i just brought music in as a comparison. I suppose the gist of what I was saying is: yes contemporary conceptual art sometimes raises the question “is this art?” but do all art forms and genres ask this question as often or as loudly (no, is the answer, judging by your reply above?) and if not, why is that the case?


    • Alison Gibb
      Dec 07, 2011 @ 12:45:15

      Mike, I’m a little confused by your terms and why you think the question of what is art? is the same as is it art? You make it sounds as if its a matter of getting it or not? I would say that the question of what is art is subtly different and a broader question, than is it art, and means to encourage a decision around art, rather than judge it against some kind of yes this is art, set of rules.

      Music is a good analogy, as like poetry there are many different types, not all of which deal with the question of what is music, but fulfill other roles, such as providing entertainment or are concerned with creating a musical perfection through applied traditional techniques, like classic music. Live music again is another type of music and maybe this is always more about an experience of the music being created, than listening to a recording, where the music will nearly always sound the same.

      But there are musicians such as John Cage who were definitely asking questions around what is music in his compositions, work with Merce Cunningham and at the Black Mountain College. A college that brought together likeminded artists and poets, such as Charles Olson, Willem de Kooning, Robert Creeley and Robert Rauschenberg. A printer and a painter no less (not conceptual artists in the 1990’s postmodern sense), that were sharing working methods and approaches with American modernist, innovative poets.

      I get that you aren’t a fan of this type of poetry and I’m not trying to make you one. I’m just saying that contemporary innovative poetry has parallels in its approaches etc with contemporary art. And that contemporary art has managed to appeal to a wide audience, as proven by the general noise and enquiry generated by the annual Turner Prize. Not to mention exceeded predicted footfall at the Tate Modern since it opened.

      Taking this onboard, it could indicate that more people could get more from contemporary innovative poetry, if only they knew it existed.


      • Mike Loveday
        Dec 09, 2011 @ 09:39:13

        You’re right to point out it’s a different question .I’ve been pondering reasons why I might have been unconsciously loose with my words between the two different posts. In the esamples I can think of, a work of art which somehow overall asks the broad question “what is art?”, the way that it does this is to have aspects and elements to itself which also prompt the question “is this art?” At least for me.
        Although I don’t read this type of poetry voraciously, I do like some contemporary innovative poetry – Denise Riley for example, and in America Mark Halliday, Graham Foust and the New Thing poets.
        I also think of mainstream poets who I find innovative, such as Luke Kennard, though his innovations are different again.

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