Glasgow-based artist Charlotte Prodger has won this year’s prestigious Turner Prize. On Tuesday, Prodger was presented with the $25,000 prize by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.The 44-year old’s heart-felt film won over three other film-based installations.
The 32-minute-long video titled Bridgit, shot on an iPhone, focused on themes of gender identity, mythology, and her native landscapes. Its poetic cadence isn’t easily described. Scenes of the Scottish countryside, Prodger’s own apartment and hospital recovery room, and a lulling ferry ride are some of the shots that come together to take viewers through a series of emotions. In some shots, Prodger, or parts of her are visible, in others we only hear her voice as she reads excerpts of her own texts and writing by Nina Simone and Julian Cope. Her exploration of gender identity is nothing if not captivating. Prodiger divulges portions of her own coming out story in Aberdeenshire in the early 90s. She relays journal-like instances when people have been unable to tell if she is a woman or man and when it has been assumed that her girlfriend is her daughter. Prodger has described Bridgit as centering the fluidity of identity, particularly from a queer perspective as she’s brought landscape, body, time, and technology together
Prodger’s reason behind using an iPhone was purely convenience, but according to director of Tate Britain Alex Farquharson, this was the ‘most profound’ handling of such a basic device he – and they jury – had seen to date. ‘[Bridgit] ends up being so unexpectedly expansive. This is not what we expect from video clips shot on iPhones,’ said Farquharson. Over the course of the year it took to accumulate clips for the film, Prodger was often on her own so her phone was readily available. This comes through in Bridgit as it hovers between intimacy and isolation as her experiences are transposed with those of goddesses.
The jury found Bridgit to be ‘incredibly impressive in the way that it dealt with lived experience, the formation of a sense of self through disparate references,’ continued Farquharson. ‘I think the jury was united in a feeling that this work was introducing something new to the filmic medium and how it is used in art.’
After winning the prize, Prodger said: ‘I feel very honoured, blown away really. It’s quite surreal. It feels lovely.’ As for how she plans to spend her winnings? The artist responded: ‘I’ll live on it. I’ll pay my rent and my studio rent and some bills. Maybe there’ll be a little treat … probably a nice jacket. Don’t hold me to that!’ Prodger already has big things on the horizon as she will represent Scotland in the 2019 Venice Biennale.
This year’s Turner Prize was not without controversy and mixed reviews. Nominee Luke Willis Thompson’s entry was accused of using black trauma in a negative manner. The inclusion of nominee Forensic Architecture, though a favourite, was questioned as it isn’t art in a traditional sense. The Turner Prize was solely comprised of film entries making it a lengthy exhibition that drew critiques of elitist-style art. The 2019 Prize will be held in Margate.