“I think the per­sonal is po­lit­i­cal, they are in­ex­tri­ca­bly bound up”

As she pre­pares to rep­re­sent Scot­land at the Venice Bi­en­nale, Turner Prize win­ner Char­lotte Prodger talks to Su­san Mans­field about the themes be­hind the show

The Scotsman - - ARTS -

Char­lotte Prodger speaks long­ingly about “just hav­ing some time.” Be­cause, when you’re mak­ing work to rep­re­sent Scot­land at the Venice Bi­en­nale, and then you win the Turner Prize, time is ex­actly what you don’t have.

Prodger, 44, was named as the win­ner of the £ 25,000 prize in De­cem­ber and, two days later, was back be­hind the cam­era work­ing on her Venice film. It has been, she says “in­tense.” But if she is in any way cowed by the me­dia cir­cus sur­round­ing both projects, she doesn’t show it; she is calm but con­fid­ing, say­ing sim­ply she feels “so lucky.”

By the time you read this, her new film SAF05 will be show­ing to the Bi­en­nale crowds in a spe­cially con­structed space in a boat­yard at the Arse­nale Docks, close to the hub of the big­gest con­tem­po­rary art fes­ti­val in the world. “The idea of rep­re­sent­ing a coun­try is quite strange,” Prodger says, thought­fully. “Ob­vi­ously you can’t rep­re­sent a coun­try. All of the eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions of that, and po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions.

“But I am ex­cited. This year there are some great women show­ing from var­i­ous dif­fer­ent coun­tries, so it will be lovely to be there and hang out. For me that’s one of the most mean­ing­ful things about be­ing there, that so many friends are com­ing. They’re the peo­ple I make work for, ul­ti­mately.”

Prodger was put for­ward to the Scot­land + Venice part­ner­ship by cu­ra­tor Lin­sey Young, for­merly at In­ver­leith House and the Na­tional Gal­leries of Scot­land and now on sab­bat­i­cal from the Tate to cu­rate the project, with artist res­i­dency cen­tre Cove Park as project part­ner. Young ad­mits to be­ing “a tiny bit ob­sessed” with Prodger’s work since first en­coun­ter­ing it in Glas­gow in 2012. “There are very few times when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and that was one of them,” she says. “I re­mem­ber say­ing, ‘ She’ll win the Turner Prize within five years.’ I think it took six.”

For her, as for oth­ers, Prodger’s films, which merge deeply per­sonal sto­ries with wider themes in a freely as­so­cia­tive style, are a fresh way of ex­plor­ing iden­tity, of look­ing at Scot­land, of work­ing with mov­ing image. Tate Bri­tain di­rec­tor Alex Far­quhar­son de­scribed Bridgit, for which she won the Turner Prize, as “in­cred­i­bly im­pres­sive in the way that it dealt with lived ex­pe­ri­ence, the for­ma­tion of a sense of self through dis­parate ref­er­ences”.

Al­though it stands alone, SAF05 re­lates di­rectly to Bridgit and her pre­vi­ous film, Stoney­mol­lan Trail. She was plan­ning it be­fore she was com­mis­sioned for Venice, but the Scot­land + Venice fund­ing en­abled much greater am­bi­tion. It takes its name from the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion used by con­ser­va­tion­ists for a maned lioness on a re­serve in Botswana, a rare ex­am­ple of an an­i­mal dis­play­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of the op­po­site gen­der which struck a chord with Prodger’s themes of queer iden­tity and gen­der flu­id­ity. The film in­ter­sperses at­tempts by the artist to find and film SAF05 with footage from the High­lands of Scot­land and the Great Basin Desert in Utah, and deeply per­sonal anec­dotes about love, loss, in­ti­macy and iden­tity. Prodger’s voice – calm, mea­sured, con­fid­ing – is the dom­i­nant char­ac­ter­is­tic of all three films. Their au­then­tic­ity is im­por­tant to her. In a rare mo­ment of sound­ing quite in­sis­tent, she says: “I didn’t make any of it up, it’s just how it is.”

The 2018 Turner Prize show was de­scribed by re­view­ers as the most po­lit­i­cal ever, a com­ment Prodger wel­comed. “I think the per­sonal is po­lit­i­cal, they are in­ex­tri­ca­bly bound up. When the work for the Turner Prize was framed that way, it meant a lot to me that this is be­ing recog­nised. Be­ing a queer per­son in the world, be­ing a queer body in the world, and the lived day to day ex­pe­ri­ence of that, feels po­lit­i­cal. For queer peo­ple grow­ing up, to vary­ing de­grees queer­ness is a space of oppression and violence. Things are get­ting bet­ter, for sure, but it’s still not OK.

“Some­one said to me re­cently,

‘ Your work is so per­sonal.’ I can’t

“For queer peo­ple grow­ing up, to vary­ing de­grees queer­ness is a space of oppression and violence”

seem to stop do­ing that. That’s just my vo­cab­u­lary, my lan­guage. Some peo­ple make ab­stract paint­ing, it’s just how I make work.”

Born in Bournemout­h, Prodger grew up in ru­ral Aberdeen­shire. She “wasn’t good at art in school” and didn’t ap­ply to art school un­til she was 23, af­ter work­ing for a time as a life model at Ed­in­burgh Col­lege of Art (“I re­mem­ber hang­ing out with this girl and she told me what an in­stal­la­tion was.”) She spent a year at Dun­can of Jor­dan­stone Col­lege of Art and De­sign in Dundee be­fore trans­fer­ring to Gold­smiths in Lon­don “be­cause I was young, and there weren’t any gay peo­ple!” It was not un­til ten years later, start­ing the MFA course at Glas­gow School of Art, that she be­gan to call her­self an artist.

Ear­lier works placed multi- chan­nel films in sculp­tural in­stal­la­tions. It was only when she won the Mar­garet Tait Award in 2014 that she be­gan to make sin­gle- chan­nel films. “I wanted to do that be­cause I didn’t think I’d be able to, and I found it very lib­er­at­ing – my work be­came much more per­sonal.”

A hang­over from her in­ter­est in sculp­ture is the pre­ci­sion with which she ap­proaches how her films are shown. She and Young looked at a plethora of dif­fer­ent spaces in Venice be­fore choos­ing the boat­yard, and Prodger still needed to be won over. “It was a shed,” she says, apolo­get­i­cally. But Young spot­ted how the space al­lowed the team to build the en­vi­ron­ment they wanted, some­thing they couldn’t do in a palazzo, to cre­ate an oa­sis of calm close to the twin hubs of the Bi­en­nale.

And, some­where be­yond all this, Prodger has an eye on an oa­sis of her own. “I’m just look­ing for­ward to hav­ing some time to – I don’t know what – go out­side?” she laughs. “There are var­i­ous hob­bies that I want to do that have noth­ing to do with art. Re­ally, I don’t want them to have any­thing to do with art.”

Char­lotte Prodger: SAF05 pre­sented by Scot­land + Venice is at Arse­nale Docks, Venice from to­day un­til 24 Novem­ber,www. scot­land and venice. com. To read Su­san Mans­field’s re­view, see Mon­day’s Scots­man

Stills from SAF05’ s, main and above right; Char­lotte Prodger, above

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.