Friday, 11 December 2009
It’s a staggering thing that a person can write 600 words a week on the subject of radio programmes and the result be near addictive every time. I never listen to the radio. Apart from in the car and that’s because the CD player’s broken and I have no idea how to fit the shockingly expensive in car ipod converter that a company called Ipod Car Kit Direct assured me, just before they took my credit card details, any idiot would have working within minutes. Disappointingly the little red LED lights on the dashboard have broken too so the radio is stuck on Heart FM – I swear I never tuned it to that - which means I have to switch the volume down to almost inaudible levels every time a calamitous tune comes on. Which is most of the time. If I’m in bombastic mood I might switch it up for Gloria Gaynor, but otherwise probably not.
I’d love to be the sort of person who listens to Front Row and Woman’s Hour and Jeremy Vine (whoever he is). But I’m just not. How I’d adore to say to friends and family and anyone unfortunate enough to be within ear shot, “oh I heard on Thought for the Day this morning…” But despite my best pretensions towards cultural middle age I just can’t do it. Even a radio programme dedicated to Richard Wright’s £25,000 victory is a turn off. Every time I switch the radio on I’m instantly and invariably gripped by the urge to switch it off again. Which I suppose makes it all the odder that I should be such a fan of Antonia Quirke’s New Statesman radio review column. I almost never have even the slightest clue what she’s talking about, but it’s thoroughly engaging nonetheless. She writes beautifully and with an idiosyncratic random humour. It’s a pleasure to get lost in the eccentricity.
Not so Enrico David’s surrealist strangeness. I can see that for some it’s probably playful and witty and obscure, but it doesn’t tickle my fancy a bit. It’s just not my bag. I do like the other three though. Particularly Roger Hiorns - on first thought more for the sparkly elephantine council house than for the atomised passenger airplane. On further thought, almost the plane more actually. Apparently planes get atomised all the time. That’s just what happens to ex-planes. Retired planes past their useful age. It’s rather a tragedy. Seeing the dust on the floor one is confronted with the theme indisputably central to human life, articulated with such haunting, almost terrifying beauty in Eliot’s immortal line: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
And I like the way Hiorns looks like a school boy. He reminds me of the really clever boy at school. The slightly gawky fellow who looked twelve but had the smarts of a wizened old man. It’s endearing. But I’d best make no further comment on that as I’ve already had my knuckles severely rapped for flagrant sexist objectification of the male of the species in my musings on Me and Orson Welles. Aha, boot on the other foot for a change. And they don’t like it any more than we do!
Former jury member Adrian Searle points out rather wonderfully – as always – that Tomma Abs is the only woman to have won the prize this decade and suggests that this imbalance needs to be addressed. I shall say nothing further on this either, as it’s much better coming from him than from me. It’s a hot one to handle and - once again - I tip my hat to you Mr Searle for having the bottle to get stuck in there.
I was also delighted to encounter the re-introduction of the word ‘beautiful’ into the lexicon of art speak this year, apparently without the encumbrance of the ill-fitting psycho baggage of its type casting in recent years as the embarrassing uncle at your big sisters wedding, who insists on pinching everyone’s bottoms, much to the mortification of all. If Stephen Deuchar and Alan Yentob are both to be heard using the ‘B’ word, seemingly in auspicious tones, to describe Richard Wright’s prize winning and almost universally lauded abstract gold-leaf murals, then it must be ok. Joy.
My favourite comment on this year’s Turner Prize exhibition though came from the perennially peachy Scotsman and former victor Martin Creed: “I think it’s really nice. The works are gentle and soft and nice.” I couldn’t agree more.