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Lawrence Abu Hamdan, documentation of After SFX, 2018, a 30-minute live performance at Tate Modern, London, October 2018. Photo: Jarred Alterman.

Turner Prize 2019 Shortlist Announced

Tate Britain announced today the four artists who have been shortlisted for the 2019 Turner Prize: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo, and Tai Shani. The artists were nominated for works that investigate crime, explore social histories, and transport viewers to another time and place.

Beirut-based artist Abu Hamdan was recognized for his solo exhibition “Earwitness Theatre” at Chisenhale Gallery, the video installation Walled Unwalled, and the performance After SFX at Tate Modern, London. These projects evolved as part of an audio investigation by Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture, and developed out of interviews that the artist undertook with former detainees of the Syrian regime’s Saydnaya prison who were subjected to total sensory deprivation and forced to live in darkness. Abu Hamdan used sound effects to help six survivors recall their audio memories, to map the unknown architecture of the prison, and to understand what happened there.

In an interview with Ikechukwu Onyewuenyi for Artforum, the artist said: “A comprehensive study and reconstruction of Saydnaya cannot seek to define limits and draw solid boundaries, as this would not be a true representation of the violence its witnesses and victims endure. Rather, evidence of sensory deprivation exists at the borders of what constitute both experience and its evidence—where silence can be physically and materially manifest and where hunger becomes a sound.”

The other three artists are based in London. Cammock was nominated for her solo exhibition “The Long Note” at Void Gallery, Derry, and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. The Long Note—a film that looks at the history and the role of women in the civil rights movement in Derry-Londonderry, in 1968, a period that is widely acknowledged as the starting point of the Northern Ireland conflict—weaves together archival materials, newly produced footage, and a series of interviews with women active in the movement. The jury praised the timely and urgent quality of Cammock’s work.

Helen Cammock, video still from The Long Note, 2018.

Murillo was selected for his participation in the Tenth Berlin Biennale; his solo exhibition “Violent Amnesia” at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; and his solo exhibition at the chi K11 art museum, Shanghai. Through his multifaceted practice—spanning painting, drawing, performance, sculpture, and sound—the artist uses recycled materials to reflect on his own experience of displacement and the social fallout of globalization. Murillo emigrated to London from Colombia when he was eleven years old and often draws from his own biography in his work.

Shani’s participation in Glasgow International 2018; her solo exhibition “DC: Semiramis” at the Tetley, Leeds; and her participation in “Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance” at Nottingham Contemporary and the De Le Warr Pavilion, located on the seafront at Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex, led to her nomination. These exhibitions center on Shani’s ongoing project Dark Continent, which examines “feminine” subjectivity and experience through a gothic and science-fiction lens. Developed over a period of four years, the work looks at real and mythical women in an adaptation of Christine de Pizan’s fifteenth-century feminist text The Book of the City of Ladies.

Writing on Shani’s work in the December 2018 issue of Artforum, Andrew Hunt said: “Progress toward racial and gender equality would have been impossible without spontaneous grassroots activity in small communities, and Shani’s work represents a kind of DIY activism, not just to recover the long and rich history of feminist art and thought but to inject it with new urgency and free it from the fixed institutionalized forms it has taken over time.”

The artists were chosen by a jury comprising Alessio Antoniolli, director of Gasworks & Triangle Network; Elvira Dyangani Ose, director of the Showroom Gallery and lecturer in visual cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London; Victoria Pomery, director of Turner Contemporary; and Charlie Porter, writer. The jury is chaired by Alex Farquharson, the director of Tate Britain.

An exhibition of work by the four artists will be on view at the Turner Contemporary in Margate from September 28, 2019 to January 12, 2020. The award winner will be announced during a live ceremony broadcast by BBC on December 3, 2019 and will receive a prize of $33,000—the three runners-up will each be given $6,500. Previous winners of the Turner Prize include Charlotte Prodger, Lubaina Himid, and Helen Marten.

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