But is it Art?
That’s the question put so often nowadays when some item or other of modern art comes before the public gaze. This most often happens about this time of year, when the winners of the Turner Prize, a British award for contemporary art, is announced. Past winners include people like Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry; and there has been Controversy.
But this year’s winner is of especial interest. I’ve been following the wonderful Liverpool blog of Ronnie Hughes for some time now (another WordPresser), A Sense of Place. Ronnie has been involved with the issue of social housing in Liverpool for most of his working life; these days, he’s a sort of roving consultant activist. And over the past couple of years, he’s become involved with the Granby 4 Streets Project, which started out as random acts of guerrilla gardening by some local residents trying to brighten up a decaying corner of Liverpool and blossomed into a 100%, bottom-up housing regeneration project, succeeding where seemingly well-meaning but highly paternalistic and bureaucratic, top-down regeneration Big Projects have failed.
The Granby 4 Streets project engaged an architectural agency, Assemble, to carry through the design work on the property renovations. And along the way, they began to gain attention (without particularly trying to). Until Assemble got nominated for the Turner Prize.
And last night, they won it.
Some wag – Goethe, I believe it was – once called music ‘frozen architecture’. Which makes architecture defrosted music, I suppose. But however you want to describe it, architecture is an artistic discipline, albeit one that has to be underpinned by basic mechanics. So I would suggest that Assemble’s award is as appropriate as any other winner of the Turner Prize. And as Hazel Tilley, one of the community activists behind the Granby 4 Streets project says,
“It’s recognising the politics in art, it’s recognising the humanity in art. It’s not this piece of work of art that goes into some rich person’s warehouse, this is something that you live with. And it’s art for the people. And if art isn’t about people and humanity, then what is it about?”
In applying a clear, artistic sensibility to everyday living for anyone and everyone, Assemble seem to me to be going right back to the roots of the Arts & Crafts movement, saying that the things we use, the spaces we live in, should be artistically uplifting and at the same time honest. And in doing this, they have blown away much of the pretentiousness that the Turner Prize entrants themselves have epitomised in recent years. And that can only be good for all of us.
Read Ronnie’s account of the night of the awards here.
The BBC News announcement of the award is behind this link.