The work of each of the four, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani, addressed a different topic: the apathy of the spectators’ that enables the refugee crisis to continue, the modern endangerment of civil rights in the first world, the need for feminism and the brutality of an execution point in the Syrian regime.
The Turner Prize finalists tackled fundamentally different issues, each on their own. By coming together as a collective however, they have opened another issue on a bigger scale: the strength in collective creation and protest over individual recognition. As Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain and Chair of the Turner Prize Jury stated, ‘In coming together and presenting themselves as a group, this year’s nominated artists certainly gave the jury a lot to think about. But it is very much in the spirit of these artists’ work to challenge convention, to resist polarised world views [sic.], and to champion other voices.’
The notion that collectives of artists can approach bigger issues more effectively and more commendably isn’t novel; Artists Anonymous, a London-and-Berlin based group has been crafting spectacular interdisciplinary work for a decade now, and the Guerilla Girls, have been creating for the sake equality and feminism since 1984. So, this concept of artists’ solidarity and unity for bigger issues but should definitely be re-examined under the shining example of the Turner Prize Collective. Over a span of seven years (2014-2020) the EU has funded mobility programmes, whose budget range from 1.46 bil. EUR (Creative Europe) to 14.774 bil. EUR (Erasmus+). Creative Europe aims at allowing artists from across Europe to expand on their experiences and professionalism by bringing them together to work on their projects. Erasmus+ Youth Chapter has a similar goal: to give young people (including young artists) an opportunity to join forces and work on a bigger project. Each programme has different priorities, but they all concentrate on the same goal: to allow organisations and collectives to arrange exchange programmes. This way artists of various disciplines and backgrounds can have a place to collaborate and establish a network of people, who are vocal about common issues.
Artists, young or not, can come together and approach bigger subjects as groups more sensibly than they would do alone. During my latest personal Erasmus+ experience, the impact on myself and my creative process was staggering, seeing the professionalism with which my peers approached our given topic (the future, with all its possible connotations). Mattia, an Italian performer had an optimistic outlook. Teya, a member of the German team, explored the notion of change in the future and what we leave behind. People in these programmes pour more than themselves and what they can do into their works. The interaction with so many creative individuals helps create a spontaneous, but resonating melody.
The ROOTS & ROUTES International Association sustains over 10 members of artists collectives all over Europe and makes the best case of this mentality of supportiveness and collectiveness. It is a grassroots organization, which focuses on constructing a solider and more established platform for artistic creators in the Europe of tomorrow. Their wide scope of successful international projects has been justly supported by the funding of Creative Europe and Erasmus+, over the 11 years this association operates (2008 till today).
The most recent example of such an exchange project is Future Lab Young Europe 2019 (#FLYE19). Organised by ROOTS & ROUTES Cologne, it brought together over 45 young artists of various experience and disciplines (media and visual artists, performers, musicians and musical producers) from Germany, Greece, France, Italy, the UK and Lithuania. In groups, the young artists needed to face the concept of the future through collaborative creative work. Depending of your view of the topic
-optimistic, pessimistic, a serene acceptance of whatever comes among others- the short movies, songs and live performances created had something by everyone, for anyone.
Issues like the future, queer rights and visibility (an issue examined and created upon in the 2018 ROOTS & ROUTES Cologne’s seminars in Heek and Baltrum) and all-inclusive urban experiences (like Art4Act, a 2016-18 project which included 7 members of ROOTS &ROUTES International) running from 2016 to 2018, for an inclusive society) exceed the understanding of a single person, whether they are artists, academics or workers. These are topics that affect each of us uniquely, because of their nuances, because of how diverse our experiences are. And yet, we can somehow manage to get a glimpse of what the future means for someone, if we sit down and listen to them and create something from what they have given us: a quote, a thought or the opportunity to be there and learn for this programme.
When we sit together to talk and be part of each other’s work, there is a dignity in what everyone wants to say, to what has brought us here and well-wishing hope for where we all might head after that. Solidarity and unity don’t mean that a weak voice has to sing under the others, but that all voices give time to each one to be heard, no matter their pitch or volume.
Many of the young artists I had the honour to meet, share the need to express their minds and feelings on subjects that cannot be overlooked. When these artists come across people with something to contribute to their creations, something clicks. Like puzzle pieces that together they form a broader, more lucid image.
On December 3rd 2019, history was made in the art world, when this year’s Turner Prize’s four finalists agreed to collectively share the award, before the judges deliberated on a winner.