Turner Prize 2018 shortlist announced: researchers take on filmmakers

Jack Shepherd
Luke Willis Thompson’s work profiles the woman who live-streamed her boyfriend getting shot by police on Facebook: Andy Keate

Tate Britain has announced the four artists shortlisted for this year’s Turner Prize, including a research agency known for their crime-fighting investigations and a portrait photographer.

Forensic Architecture, Naeem Mohaiemen, Charlotte Prodger and Luke Willis Thompson all made the cut, the eventual winner taking home £25,000, while the other nominees are all awarded £5,000.

“This year’s jury has chosen an outstanding group of artists,” said Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain, “all of whom are tackling the most pressing political and humanitarian issues of today.”

Heading up the shortlist is Forensic Architecture, a 15-person team made of architects, journalists, film-makers, and more, noted by the prize’s jury for “developing highly innovative methods for sourcing and visualising evidence relating to human rights abuses”.

Next comes Mohaiemen, who uses a variety of different mediums to explore radical left politics, primarily in South Asia during the 1970s. The artist was noted by the jury for his films that explore post-colonial identity, migration, exile and refuge through narratives using fiction and social history.

The shortlist also contains another filmmaker Prodger, whose work has been noted for “the nuanced way in which she deals with identity politics, particularly from a queer perspective”.

Rounding off the list is Willis Thompson, who made the cut thanks to his black and white 35mm portrait of Diamond Reynolds, the woman who live-streamed on Facebook her boyfriend getting shot in 2016.

Farquharson added: “This shortlist highlights how important the moving image has become in exploring these debates. We are looking forward to what will be a dynamic and absorbing exhibition.”

Established in 1984, the Turner Prize celebrates and promotes contemporary British art and is awarded to an artist with an outstanding exhibition or presentation of their work in the previous year.

Last year’s prize was won by Lubaina Himid, who became the oldest person to take home the esteemed award at 62-years-old.

The African-born artist – who is best known for her paintings, drawings, printmaking, and installations that centre on black identity – was praised for raising “questions of personal and political identity”.

Where the 2017 shortlist was composed mainly from relatively easy to decipher work, this year the Turner Prize has elected to praise more complicated, predominantly filmed artworks that are layered with social commentary.


Forensic Architecture

Counter Investigations: Forensic Architecture at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (Mark Blower)

Not the first collective ever nominated (the London-based Assemble won in 2015), but perhaps the first who are not actual artists. Led by architect Eyal Weizman, the Goldsmiths-based group are known for their reconstructions of historic cases of human rights abuses. Their work has been shown in art galleries, laying out their research for all to see and changing their context dramatically.

A solo exhibition of their work is currently showing at the ICA in London, for which they are recognised by the Turner Prize. Forensic Architecture work has also been used in courts of law around the world, including in Germany, Israel, and Greece.


Naeem Mohaiemen

Mohaiemen’s ‘Tripoli Cancelled’ is inspired by his father's experience of being trapped in a Greek airport without a passport for nine days in the Seventies (Dimitris Parthimos)

Mohaiemen made the shortlist after his film, There is No Last Man, was shown at MoMA, New York. His work has been noted as overtly political, combining both the traumas of history and personal stories about his own.

In his films, installations, and essays, Mohaiemen pays particular attention to radical left politics from around the world, investigating memories of political utopias and the legacies of colonialism. One of his best-known films, United Red Army, about the high jacking of a Japan Airlines flight in 1977, is in the Tate Modern’s permanent collection.


Charlotte Prodger

Prodger is the latest Glasgow School of Art graduate to be shortlisted for the prize (Charlotte Prodger)

Prodger has been shortlisted for two video works. Shot on a range of technologies, including camcorders and iPhones, the films convey non-linear narratives that blend landscape, time and language told from a “queer perspective”.

The 44-year-old trained in both London and Glasgow, the latter city’s School of Arts being home to five Turner winners. Her previous work includes Stoneymollan Trail, an hour-long exhibition reimagining a 7km-long Glaswegian burial path.


Luke Willis Thompson

Willis Thompson is the second singularly-nominated New Zealander in 30 years (Andy Keate)

Willis Thompson is behind perhaps the most striking piece to be crafted by this year’s nominees. The artist’s work – titled Autoportrait (2017) – profiles Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Philando Castile who was shot by a Minnesota police officer in 2016, and has seen him become the second singularly-nominated New Zealander since 1988.

The work of Willis Thompson, who won the New Zealand equivalent to the Turner Prize in 2014, has been described as “intelligent and sophisticated” by Auckland art curator Natasha Conland. With the video, the artist yearned to “interpolate Diamond into cinematic history”, adding: “The history of cinema owes black life something.”

All the shortlisted work will be showcased at Tate Britain from 25 September to 6 January 2019. The winner will be announced in December, broadcast from the Turner Contemporary in Margate by the BBC.