September 23 2014

Audio: Alison Carlier/Jerwood drawing prize

Roll up everyone, for here perhaps is a Guffwatch to beat all Guffwatches. From the BBC:

A sound piece, lasting 75 seconds, has won a prestigious prize for drawing.

Adjectives, lines and marks, the winner of this year's £8,000 Jerwood Drawing Prize, will be exhibited alongside two other prize winners from this week.

Its creator, Alison Carlier, describes the piece as "an open-ended audio drawing" that offers "a spoken description of an unknown object".

Established in 1994, the Jerwood Drawing Prize is the UK's largest annual open exhibition for drawing.

It is the first time an artwork consisting solely of sound has won the top prize in its 20-year history.

The extract Carlier reads aloud describes a "hard, red, brown" Roman pot found in the London borough of Southwark.

Its source is a reference book on Roman excavations in south London held by the Museum of London.

Yes, that's right: someone has won eight thousand quid just by having the chutzpah to read out a few lines from an old book, and enter the recording into a drawing prize. Absurdism has reached a new level. What next? Could I enter the Nobel prize for literature with a well-cooked steak?

To understand how a sound piece became 'a drawing', we must look to the guffy criteria of the Jerwood prize, as set out by one of the judges, Gavin Delahunty, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at Dallas Museum:

 “The shortlist is made up of those artists who knew how to embrace, or indeed reject, the manifold approaches to drawing that exist today. Naturally such a process of selection is always a subjective exercise grown out of the different visual and intellectual sensibilities of the jury. This vital tension between the judges ensured that the final selection went beyond any singular voice or tendency delivering a superb and surprising group of “drawings” for exhibition and commendation.”

Here we have a classic construct of Guff-ism; the need, because people don't know what else to say, to make every statement a contradiction. ' embrace, or indeed reject...' We see this all the time in contemporary-speak: 'something constructive, but at the same time also destructive', and its primary purpose, as demonstrated again by Gavin, is to permit the creation of 'tension', another favourite old chestnut from the contemporary world. 

Update - a reader writes:

I am speechless.

Another wonders where the money comes from for the prize. The good news is that none of it is public money. 

Another reader writes:

[...] from my experience teaching it is this type of crap-speak that is being taught in the universities. The new generation unleashed on the public will all be "communicating" in this way.

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