By Ray Fleming

THE Tate Gallery's annual attempt to make itself ridiculous reached a summit of sorts on Monday evening in London when the 25'000 pounds Turner Prize was awarded to an installation with no visual content whatsover beyond three loudspeakers in an otherwise empty room. Even hardened Turner Prize critics who once despaired over a previous award for an empty room in which the lights switched on and off at regular intervals were bemused by Susan Phillipsz's Lowlands installation. However, there were the usual “interpreters” on hand to explain that this was an example of “sound art” and that the Tate's endorsement was an important moment for this new medium. Having heard Ms Phillipsz untrained voice singing the 16th century Scottish lament which is at the heart of her work I can confirm its appeal, but the point is surely that in the absence of any visual element it should not have been given an award bearing the name of one of Britain's greatest graphic artists. However, the jury thought otherwise, commending the way Lowlands “provokes both intellectual and instinctive responses and reflects a series of decisions about the relationship between sound and sight.”

The prizegiving at the Tate was interrupted by shouting and jeering from students protesting at cuts in funding for the arts and arts education. The protests would have better directed to the Turner Prize which has degenerated into an insult to the artist whose name it bears.


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