So Assemble have won the Turner Prize tonight. This is surely a good thing. The Assemble Collective, in terms of the Turner Prize (and so many other things), are a breath of fresh air. “Is it art? Is it architecture? It is design? If we can’t tell, who cares?” twittered Jenny Stuart, from the press office at London’s Design Museum. “Well done to Assemble for winning #TurnerPrize they are great and represent where art is at now” added Greyson Perry. And yes, Greyson is right: it is where art really is now, as we struggle for our places to live, to make, to create, to exist to do more than merely consume.
Now, more than ever, art needs to be about community, about engaging with the community; art needs to be part of it, right in there. It needs to be about buildings and people and open doors, about open signs and welcome signs. And it isn’t so much that a group of architects have just won the prestigious Turner art prize, it’s the fact that art has engaged with a bunch of architechs
Assemble are genuinely impressive – it isn’t just that they have great ideas, it’s that they actually pull off so many of those great ideas. Their very serious projects actually happen, and when they are completed they engage and excite. It is very much art, engagement art. “Collaborative housing as art”? Yes! “Nice to see the Turner prize go to a non artist collective doing community work” said someone else, but their attitude is entirely art based, to say “non-artists” is wrong, this is engagement art, brilliantly so, the Turner Prize always interests me, it hasn’t excited like this for a long long time.
Indeed, this is an amazingly appropriate choice from the Turner Prize judges. It is almost impossible to be an artist of any kind, or a creative person of any kind, today, without coming up against the challenges of finding a place to create (and share that that is created). That pragmatic, huge issue – that’s part of it, the other is engagement: with current pressures art cannot exist any longer in an elitist, deliberately obscure, intimidating bubble. It has to engage, and it can’t just pretend to engage, it can’t just pay lip service, it has to really actually engage – and not by dumbing down, but by understanding there is no limit to the general public’s ability to grasp what art has to offer. Art can’t hide behind closed doors. It isn’t just about housing people, or artists, or galleries, but the smaller, human-sized makers and services of all kinds, as much corner shops and car repair railway arches. It’s about all of us having our tails chased by vast, unfeeling monetary forces. So Assemble have won the Turner Prize tonight, good news indeed. (SW)
Originally written for the Cultivate blog