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Sin Wai Kin, A Dream of Wholeness in Parts still (2021)
Sin Wai Kin, A Dream of Wholeness in Parts still (2021)Via Instagram/@sinforvictory

Boy bands are up against the apocalypse at the 2022 Turner Prize

Work by Heather Phillipson, Sin Wai Kin, Ingrid Pollard, and Veronica Ryan feature in this year’s competition at Tate Liverpool

This year, the Turner Prize returns to Liverpool for the first time in 15 years. With it, it brings fictional boy bands, visions of the apocalypse, fake fruit, and racist pub signs reclaimed from across the UK. As far as its aim of stirring public debate about contemporary British art goes, it may not be the most provocative show in the prize’s history, but it is particularly in tune with the issues we face – from racialised violence, to shifting gender norms, to climate breakdown and, yes, the lingering threat of all-out armageddon.

The artists in competition at Tate Liverpool this year are Heather Phillipson, Veronica Ryan, Sin Wai Kin, and Ingrid Pollard, and the show itself takes the form of a series of mini-retrospectives, repurposing and reimagining the artists’ past works for the present moment.

On December 7, a jury will decide who is awarded with the £25,000 top prize, while the other shortlisted artists will each receive £10,000. Audiences can also participate by voting for their favourite artist on-site at the Liverpool gallery, where the show opens today (October 20), and runs until March 19, 2023. 

In the meantime, we’ve broken down what to expect from each artist at the 2022 Turner Prize, below.

HEATHER PHILLIPSON

If you took a trip to Tate Britain last year, there’s a good chance you ran into Heather Phillipson’s monumental Duveen Galleries commission, RUPTURE NO. 6: blowtorching the bitten peach. This was the exhibition – alongside her whipped cream-themed Fourth Plinth artwork, THE END – that earned the British multimedia artist a nomination for the 2022 Turner Prize, and her entry comes in the form of a reimagined version of the “maladapted ecosystem”. Entering through a neon-lit hallway of blinking animal eyes, visitors emerge into a windswept installation where birds glitch in and out of the atmosphere, and – in a corrugated, bunker-like structure – hanging gas canisters toll-like funeral bells as they sway on an artificial breeze. It’s apocalyptic stuff, and Phillipson’s transformation of everyday objects into surreal, kinetic sculptures is ingenious – guided, as the artist herself puts it, by an interest in “the capacity of everything to resemble something else”.

VERONICA RYAN

Veronica Ryan’s recuperative work provides a stark contrast to Phillipson’s installation in the next room, though it’s equally open to interpretation. Nominated for her Hackney Windrush Art Commission, Custard Apple, Breadfruit, and Soursop, which saw marble and bronze sculptures of Caribbean fruits installed in east London, the Montserrat-born sculptor presents an entire exhibition of artworks made during a residency at Bristol’s Spike Island. Framed by vibrant yellow walls – a ray of sunshine after Phillipson’s visions of ecological breakdown – her recreations of everyday objects include pillows, takeaway containers, and fruit hanging from the ceiling in hand-knitted nets. She uses these objects, she says, to talk about “psychological resonance, about the extended self, and how we relate to objects that relate to us and the wider culture”. Again, there’s an ongoing recognition of the climate crisis, but also the history of global trade, and Ryan’s own childhood memories.

SIN WAI KIN

Sin Wai Kin is a Canadian, London-based artist whose fantastical work draws from drag, queer existence, and ancient cultural forms including Cantonese opera and Chuang Tzu’s Taoist allegory Dream of the Butterfly. Nominated for their involvement in the British Art Show 9 and a solo show at Frieze London in 2021, they pack their Turner Prize space with merchandise – from gaudy posters to cardboard cutouts – for a fictitious four-piece boyband, where each outlandish member is played by the artist, Cindy Sherman style, occupying various identities across the celebrity spectrum. Needless to say, their work interrogates gender and identity, but also – and particularly in the surreal, 23-minute video A Dream of Wholeness in Parts (2021) – broader philosophical questions about human consciousness, language, and the fluidity of identity. Viewers only emerge from the dream on exiting the space, where Sin’s makeup is imprinted on facial wipes used to clean up after a day’s filming.

INGRID POLLARD

Taking on a range of contemporary issues, the aforementioned artists are bound together by a sense of fantasy or unreality – imagined futures, hazy memories brought into being, and bizarre masked characters. As a result, the final works of the 2022 Turner Prize, by Ingrid Pollard, are all the more shocking for their reminder of very real racial and sexual divides. The British artist – nominated for Carbon Slowly Turning, a solo show featuring photography, film, and mechanised sculptures – presents Seventeen of Sixty-Eight (2018), a collection of British pub signs, ephemeral objects, and blown-up literature that are the result of decades of research. Other photo series’ explore the dynamics of race, gender, and protest. However, it’s Pollard’s trio of kinetic sculptures, Bow Down and Very Low-123 (2021), which use everyday objects to hint at tilted power dynamics through all-too-familiar gestures, that bring this year’s offering to a grounded and violent close.