The 2018 Turner Prize winner’s films address the fluidity of identity from a queer perspective in Scotland
This year the Turner Prize shortlist was comprised solely of artists working in film. All of which visually tackled the politics of our times, namely identity, race, sexuality, and world migration. However, it was 44-year-old Charlotte Prodger, the iPhone artist that wowed the judges with her two film works, Bridgit and Stoneymollan Trail, and took home the £25k prize money.
Born in Bournemouth, Prodger relocated to rural Scotland at a young age, offering a setting which led her to explore themes such as landscape, language and queer identity in her work. One of the two winning films, the highly personal Bridgit, addresses the film maker’s experience with coming out in this location. A Goldsmiths and The Glasgow School of Art graduate, Prodger has had a number of solo shows and was included in the esteemed The Weight of Data at the Tate Britain and Subtotal at The Sculpture Centre in New York. In celebration of her victory, here's everything you need to know about Charlotte Prodger.
SHE IS AN IPHONE ARTIST
In an age where we use our phones for basically everything, it’s no surprise that artists have taken up the trope too. However, Prodger speaks honestly and rationally about her device of choice and its ease of use. In her TateShots film she explains: "It becomes very material almost sculptural this object… so you can flip it mid shot, your fingers get in the shot, they’re fleshy… you can see the blood inside your finger if you cover the tiny lens, you touch and rub the screen to alter the exposure". It also made sense for Prodger in practical terms because she was filming on her own a lot, the iPhone benefited her because it felt like an extension of her body. Director of the Tate Britain, Alex Farquharson, who chaired the judging panel, has praised Prodger’s medium as the “most profound use of a device as prosaic as the iPhone camera that we’ve seen in art to date”. Her impressive and inventive use of her iPhone makes us question how technology will further shape creative landscapes.
HER WORK IS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL
Shot over the course of the year, Bridgit is like a beautiful video diary. It includes footage of Prodger at home and out and about on her travels. The narration includes snatches of autobiography through readings from her diary describing coming out in Aberdeenshire, instances where she has been perceived as a boy, and the frequent misunderstanding that her girlfriend is her daughter. For her voiceovers, she usually asks friends to read out her own content, particularly people that she has an affection for and feels close to.
SHE IS KNOWN FOR EXPLORING QUEER IDENTITY
Prodger’s work adheres to the personal as political."The stories that I'm telling, although they're mine and they're personal, are stories that a lot of people – I guess queer people – have experienced," Prodger told BBC News. Her work features anecdotes about her experiences of being gay and recalls coming out in rural Scotland. When commenting on Prodger as the Turner Prize winner, Farquharson said that the winning film importantly makes a lot of points for a younger queer generation as “it deals with gender as unfixed, as something fluid, as something not always conforming to society’s norms”.
SHE IS PASSIONATE ABOUT THE LANDSCAPE
Evoking traditions in landscape art, Bridgit takes us from a static view of Prodger’s own body, stretched out on the sofa, to various settings including grey Scottish seas, the deck of a ferry, and wet woodlands. The filmmaker explains that she feels passionate about “exploring landscapes as the distinct individual locations that they are” rather than the generalisation that the term often suggests. The artist has spoken before of the immense draw of the landscape, to be away from the city to make her art, and that most queer narratives are situated in the urban space. Settings such as these are a frequent feature on her Instagram too.
SHE IS AN ADVOCATE FOR PUBLIC FUNDING OF THE ARTS
The shortlist was considered the most political in the Turner Prize’s history and the theme didn’t stop there. Tate director Maria Balshaw’s speech spoke of funding pressures affecting the number of students who are enrolling in arts subjects. There has been a significant decline over the past five years. Prodger’s acceptance speech addressed this topic further by stating:"I wouldn't be in this room were it not for the public funding that I received from Scotland for free higher education, and then later in the form of artist bursaries and grants to support not only the production of work but also living costs.” In turn, Prodger’s win illustrates that anyone with a smartphone and a story to tell could have a shot at winning a prestigious award such as the Turner Prize. We’re already looking forward to the 58th Venice Biennale where Prodger will represent Scotland in 2019.