Hostile states, fragile sculptures: 2023 Turner Prize nominees revealed


The nominees for the Turner Prize this year include Barbara Walker who is nominated for a series of works exploring the fallout of the Windrush scandal in the UK. The other nominees are Jesse Darling, Ghislaine Leung and Rory Pilgrim. An exhibition of the nominees’ works will be held at Towner Gallery, East Sussex (28 September-14 April); the winner, who receives £25,000, will be announced 5 December.

Walker was selected for her Burden of Proof installation—comprising large-scale charcoal portraits drawn on to the wall and eight works on paper—which is on show at the Sharjah Biennial 15 (until 11 June). The works incorporate hand-drawn facsimiles of original documents, such as an invoice for legal services and a temporary certificate of discharge from the military.

Walker says in an online statement that the drawings consider the “extensive reach of the Windrush scandal through portraits of those affected by the actions of a hostile state. [The work] centres on the evidence that helped to prove the legitimacy of those the British government had wrongly labelled as ‘undocumented migrants’.” said Jury member Melanie Keen, director of the Wellcome Collection in London, at a press briefing today: “Walker has captured the essence of who these people are in a way it is impossible to ignore.”

Installation view of Rory Pilgrim’s RAFTS

Courtesy of the artist

Vulnerability as a theme also permeates the work of Bristol-born Rory Pilgrim who is nominated for the commission RAFTS at Serpentine Galleries and Barking Town Hall, along with a live performance of the work at Cadogan Hall in London; the resulting film features eight residents of Barking and Dagenham.

The work was commissioned for the Radio Ballads series at the Serpentine last year. “Made during the Covid-19 pandemic, Pilgrim positions the raft as a symbol of support keeping us afloat in challenging and precarious circumstances,” an exhibition statement says. “We were struck by the deft filmmaking and beautiful musical arrangements,” said jury member Helen Nisbet, the artistic director of the Art Night festival (and incoming chief executive and artistic director of Cromwell Place).

Installation view of Ghislaine Leung’s Monitors (2022) at Simian in Copenhagen

Courtesy of the artist

Stockholm-born Leung puts her own twist on baby monitors, child safety gates and inflatable structures. Her Monitors work of 2022 consisted of a baby monitor installed in one room which broadcast to another; her exhibition at Simian in Copenhagen garnered her the nomination. “The jury commended… her commitment to challenging the way art is produced and circulated,” the exhibition statement adds.

Installation view of Jesse Darling’s Enclosures

Jesse Darling is nominated for his solo exhibition No Medals, No Ribbons at Modern Art Oxford and Enclosures at Camden Art Centre (Martin Clark, director of Camden Art Centre, is on the jury also). Vulnerability, precariousness and the fragility of the universe is again an underlying aspect of the works. “Moving through these spaces [in Oxford], people encountered often fragile and precarious sculptures,” Keen said. The Oxford show included a full-sized roller coaster bent into the skeletal form of a woolly mammoth alongside distorted mobility aids.


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