Elizabeth Price wins Turner Prize 2012

Elizabeth Price has been named as this year’s Turner Prize winner, securing the prestigious, controversial and much-talked about award for her twenty-minute video installation The Woolworths Choir of 1979.
In what has been described as the most interesting line-up in years, all four nominees – including Spartacus Chetwynd, Luke Fowler and the bookie’s favourite Paul Noble – were in with a legitimate shot at the coveted and divisive prize.
Price’s piece is composed of a cacophony of photographs, artefacts and historical film, mashed together in a hypnotic and frenetic symphony, with bursts of activity cut apart by more placid moments.
“I use digital video to try and explore the divergent forces that are at play when you bring so many different technological histories together,” Price has explained.
“We can move between genres and forms from something that looks like a power point lecture to something that looks like an infomercial to something that feels like a cinematic melodrama.”
It’s not easy reading, nor can one really gather what the work is about apart from the fact that it draws heavily from a real life fire that tragically took the lives of ten people in the eponymous department store in Manchester.
But as for raw emotional effect, from a blinding kind of shock to absolute unease, the 45-year-old artist is certainly capable of having a very direct impact on the senses, visually, intellectually and physically.
“The sonorous effect is to unify an eclectic mix of archive footage and typed comment that plays on multiple meanings of the word choir,” commented the BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz. “It is a moving, haunting and disturbing installation that – in my opinion – is a worthy winner of this prestigious prize.”
Price admits it herself that she deliberately makes dense and complex things. Sometimes there is no need for a direct translation of a work, much in the same way a song can be moving even though the lyrics are in a foreign tongue. Abstract always allows for new thinking; cause and effect.
It appears that Price is a worthy winner of the £25,000 prize given the overwhelming support that has followed. The Guardian’s art critic Adrian Searle said that on the whole it had been a good year for the Turner, adding that there were not necessarily any losers (though he was pleased Price had picked up the award).
Meanwhile, the Telegraph’s arts writer Mark Hudson was equally laudatory, though he wasn’t without his criticisms: “As with other films I’ve seen by Price, there is the sense of something slightly arid, academic and a little too clever for its own sake about the work. Yet it is the work of a genuinely interesting talent, who finally was the only realistic winner for this year’s Turner Prize.”
In typical Turner Prize fashion, there was a bit of drama on the night, though in this instance it did not come from any of the artists. The actor Jude Law, who said he was honoured to be presenting the award, preceded the announcement of the winner with a short but stirring speech that attacked the coalition government.
He said that their attitude towards the arts in general was akin to “cultural vandalism”, which would have a lasting and devastating legacy on the country’s future creative talents.
Accepting her award, Price continued with the criticism: “It’s incredibly depressing listening to comments made earlier that a young girl from Luton going to a comprehensive might not be able to imagine being an artist, and might not have the opportunities I’ve had. The idea of young people not making art is a really, incredibly depressing idea.”
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