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Laure Prouvost, Wantee (2013). Installation view. © Laure Prouvost, courtesy MOTInternational, London
Laure Prouvost, an artist whose work has been described as a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, is the winner of this year’s £25,000 Turner Prize. Considered by many to be the most important and prestigious award for the visual arts in Europe, the Turner Prize is awarded each year to an artist under 50 who lives and works in the U.K.
The 35-year-old Prouvost was shortlisted for her film installation, Wantee. Narrated by the artist, the film tells the strange but compelling tale of a fictional artist grandfather who plans to travel to Africa by digging a tunnel. Prouvost brings the film to life by showing it in a space that re-creates the onscreen living room—a sort of tearoom filled with incredible pots, tables, chairs, and other items.
In addition to exploring the lines between fiction and reality, Wantee also pays homage to the late artist Kurt Schwitters. The work’s title refers to Schwitters’ nickname for his partner, who frequently liked to offer him tea. Indeed, language play, miscommunication, and getting lost in translation are ideas that Prouvost explores in much of her work. As the French-born artist—who has been living in London for almost 15 years—explains in this video, “I came to study here and I stayed. I felt quite uncomfortable with words. I wasn’t sure I could use them well at all . . . I think misunderstanding makes you use your imagination more.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Prouvost’s work has been characterized as complex, but also courageous and unexpectedly moving. As the Turner Prize jury noted in its statement, “Using film in a completely contemporary way, Prouvost takes viewers to an inner world, while making reference to the streaming of images in a post-internet age.”
The other artists shortlisted for this year’s award are performance artist Tino Sehgal, painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and artist-humourist David Shrigley, whose giant sculpture of a nude male model peeing in a bucket sparked mild controversy. The Turner Prize has often sparked passionate debate on the subject of contemporary art, most notably in 1992 for Damien Hirst’s shortlisted work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living—which consists of a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde—and in 1999 for another shortlisted piece, Tracey Emin’s My Bed, an installation featuring the artist’s stained bed with various detritus.
As for this year’s winner, Prouvost doesn’t think that receiving the prestigious prize will change her. When asked about it in an interview she said, “No. I think you’ll always question what you’re doing, constantly and why. How can you do it better or more interestingly? At the end, you just make your work.”
The Turner Prize 2013 exhibition is on display at Ebrington in Derry~Londonderry, Ireland until 5 January 2014.
Robyn Jeffrey is a writer and editor based in Wakefield, Quebec.
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