Turner Prize Show 2015, Tramway, Glasgow (4 stars)

Turner Prize Show 2015, Tramway, Glasgow

'Granby Four Streets' by Assemble

An exhibition event that can be explored and experienced rather than admired from afar

Finally arriving in Glasgow after 21 years of its existence and several past Scots nominees and winners, the Turner Prize 2015’s first day open to the public bore a sense of occasion. The audience flowed through steadily, young families and older viewers, and they seemed to find much to engage them. To exhibition-goers not familiar with the Turner as something to be explored and experienced – rather than spectated on from afar – a certain tone not present at most other contemporary art shows might have been picked up.

That’s because the show is a genuine event, and it appears not just one to casually hold the interest. Exhibits are pored over and absorbed by all, the better to reveal something transcendental, it seems. There’s plenty to explore. Nicole Wermers’ ‘Infrastruktur’ is perhaps the slightest of the work here, and that’s not to disparage it. Ten sleek chairs are arranged around the room, luxurious fur coats slung across them; on closer inspection they’re revealed to be upholstered into the chairs, blurring the line between casual appropriation of the seat and formal aesthetic design. On the walls are the most disposable of functional items, a sheet of paper with tear-off strips at the bottom, but rendered in sturdy plaster.

Wermers’ work plays with form and function in aesthetically pleasing fashion. The ‘Granby Four Streets’ project by London-based design and architecture collective Assemble is far more complex, so much so that it’s hard to represent in this space. The original and still ongoing project is the renovation of ten derelict council houses in the deprived Liverpool suburb of Toxteth for community purposes, which is represented here by a timber frame house built within the gallery and a selection of very beautiful and tactile homewares and crafts produced in and put up for sale from the original houses.

It’s only a flavour of the original project, but there is a strong sense of the revitalisation and of the consciousness of place which the project evokes; in the absence of the original creation, it’s pleasing to note that Assemble’s one Glasgow project to date, ‘Baltic Street Adventure Playground’, is being trailed on the way out. It’s all very celebratory, in much the same way as Janice Kerbel’s sound works are celebratory – not so much of the song, but of the human voice itself. The poems her small, black-clad choir performs at half-hourly intervals between 1pm and 4pm are written on the wall, but it’s the interpretation which really matters. ‘Blast’, for example, lasts 40 seconds, a low hum for most of it and then an unearthly volley of vocal power which is over in the split of a second.

All are vibrant and different pieces in their own way, but in this context – and it’s hard to adequately judge Assemble out of context, in fairness – Bonnie Camplin’s ‘The Invented Life’ is rich in detail and resonance. Around the room lay texts which weave a complicated landscape of resonances, books and internet printouts on subjects like psychology, Artificial Intelligence and what may be termed conspiracy theories. In the centre sit five television screens showing individuals giving their own testimony about the conspiracy they believe they’re at the heart of.

It’s an immersive experience dense in storytelling, and easy to lose yourself in. Several stories appear to be in a process of completion, yet some may be in the reader’s mind: which is the point. This is not, contrary to the evidence before us, a piece about conspiracy theories, but of the narrative a human mind constructs for itself or even forces itself to believe using available evidence. In an era of online hive mind confirmation bias and shouting into a well-reinforced echo chamber, Camplin’s work very simply but methodically asks us to consider how we engaged with what we perceive to be ‘truth’. It’s a haunting and powerful work amidst a solid line-up of engaging and relevant art.

Tramway, Glasgow, until Sun 17 Jan.

Turner Prize 2015

The Turner Prize is the biggest award in British art, with £25,000 going to the winner and £5,000 to the nominees, and the most controversial. Its championship of conceptual rigour over traditionalism has tended to whip the tabloids into a froth, but a list of Turner nominees contains many of the most memorable names from…