Words: Eva O’Beirne
Belfast-based group, the Array Collective, won the prestigious prize for their exhibition of The Druithaib’s Ball – a recreation of a traditional Irish pub.
The collective, comprising of eleven artists works to “create collaborative actions in response to socio-political issues” affecting Northern Ireland. Previous projects by the group have focused on access to abortion, gay rights, mental health, gentrification and social welfare.
Array Collective are the first Northern Irish artists ever to win the Turner Prize. Array described their win as “surreal” and said they would put the 25,000 pound prize money towards the rent for their inner city studio.
The “pub without permission”, is an immersive installation with a large canopy styled from banners which provides a “floating roof”. Surrounded by a circle of flag poles referencing ancient Irish ceremonial sites, it is described as “a place to gather outside the sectarian divides”.
The shebeen also nods towards contemporary issues faced by the region with banners supporting reproductive rights and the removal of conversion therapy.
Established in 1984, the Turner Prize is the most high-profile award in British art. It was temporarily scrapped last year because of the pandemic.
Stephan Millar, a member of Array Collective, expressed his delight on their win: “We are so proud to be from Belfast, to be of Belfast and the communities we work with.”
“The Sibín was for everyone of Belfast but it’s also for all the collectives in this room. We see you we support you. We’re with you.”
Alex Farquharson, the director of Tate Britain and chair of the judges, commented on the collective’s work: “They make their work in a difficult, divided sectarian context. They deal with very important issues but bring a sense of humour, pleasure, joy, hope and hospitality – often through absurdism, camp, theatre, to an otherwise very tense situation. They bring a sense of release and a post-sectarian way of thinking.”
The other collectives on the shortlist were Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S), Cooking Sections, Gentle/Radical and Project Art Works, who all received 10,000 pounds for their efforts.
B.O.S.S is a London-based collective of queer, trans and intersex black and people of colour. Gentle/Radical, is a Welsh group which describes itself as a tool for social change. It was established in Riverside, Cardiff in 2016.
Project Art Works is a collective of neuro-diverse artists based in Hastings, East Sussex. The London-based duo Cooking Sections uses food to observe landscapes in transformation. Their work highlighting the poor conditions of farmed salmon caused Tate to remove it from menus at all its sites.
An exhibition featuring the work of the shortlisted collectives is at the Herbert art gallery and museum in Coventry until 12 January as part of its 2021 city of culture events.
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