On the way to London to see this exhibition I read an article in the Tate magazine about Arte Util – art as tools. It referred, in part, to last year’s Turner prize winner, Assemble, which produced functional objects as art – or put art at the centre of producing functional objects.
There is no danger of any of this year’s prize shortlist being classified as our Arte Util. In fact the first artist in the exhibition – Helen Marten – does it the other way round, by taking “found” functional objects and assembling them into sculptures.
I like the way that Anthea Hamilton had transformed two rooms of the gallery with wallpaper – one of bricks, the other with clouds. It gave an uncanny sense to the two rooms, walking from the material to the natural and your feelings as you do so. But she will probably be remembered for the giant pair of buttocks framing the doorway in the centre of the room.
Whereas assemble made functional objects as art Josephine Pryde made art from functional objects – a series of kitchen counters on which objects had been placed to leave marks, much in the way that early photography developed. She also exhibited a series of photographs of hands – of tips of fingers or nails as part of everyday activities.
However the one exhibit which really caught my attention and had a great meaning for me was by Michael Dean “United Kingdom poverty line for two adults and two children: twenty thousand four hundred and thirty six pounds sterling as published on 1st September 2016“
The work consists of the sum of £20,436 in one penny coins in a pile in the centre of the room, merged with and surrounded by his sculptures.
To me this made the art real, relating it to the life and struggles of many people in this country. Suddenly the other shortlisted artwork seemed somehow of lesser importance, dwarfed by the power and meaning of this piece. If I were a judge I would definitely choose this as a winner.