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This report is taken from PN Review 145, Volume 28 Number 5, May - June 2002.

Reach and Grasp Lawrence Sail

Acting as master of ceremonies at the Turner Prize award ceremony in December, as his initials neatly suggest he should, Matthew Collings began by asking us television viewers whether glamour could be a way of making art accessible. The rhetoric of this question hung like a defining cloud over all that followed, as assorted celebrities were paraded in pairs to express a brief opinion about the four shortlisted contenders, Richard Billingham, Martin Creed, Isaac Julien and Mike Nelson. One of the first on was Zadie Smith, who spoke up for Richard Billingham, photographer, as the only one of the four to celebrate the human in his work. She thought the others all showed, in comparison, a marked poverty and operated in the realm of 'the fatuous artspeak of the art scene'. Zadie was thanked both for her opinion and 'for being so glamorous' - clearly we were not intended to lose sight of this issue.

We were swept on to be told about Martin Creed, creator of a work consisting of a light going on and off in a room (M.C. again, I noticed - a trite coincidence, of course, but somehow noticing it seemed in keeping with the tone of the occasion). He is 'a modern version of the minimalist', according to Collings: and whereas 1960s minimalists were inexplicable, their successors are funny as well as inexplicable. Creed has a band, we were informed, and one of their numbers is called 'Nothing'. His art works include ...

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