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editors review
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billy childish roundup on the turner prize 2002

One day we’ll look back at these fakes and see them for the limp phoneys they really are.

In 1977, I walked out of Chatham dockyard and entered the local art college. No one seemed to like painting and the tutors were only interested in a quiet life, so I decided to exhibit a polythene bag containing hardcore pornography and two used Durexes. I hung my “sex mobile” from the ceiling in the main studio, for which I was put on probation and threatened with expulsion. I was later thrown out of St Martin’s School Of Art for publishing what was described as “toilet-wall humour” and spent the next few years relaxing on the dole. Looking back, I can see that I was doing the right thing at the right time.

My “sex mobile” was made to annoy the smug, pompous, self-satisfied, reactionary, unimaginative art tutors of my day, not to be applauded by them. Contemporary art, as exemplified by the Turner Prize, has merely absorbed anti-art, called it art and cut off its balls.

Last Sunday, me, my wife, ex-girlfriend and my son were driving down to my studio (my mum’s upstairs front bedroom) in the tatty 1968 Volvo my brother gave me, when we were cut up by a brand new 4X4 Land Cruiser with “Maverick” written in gleaming letters on the spare-wheel cover. “There it is,” I said. “The Turner Prize on wheels!" We watched as it sped off into the distance.

The Turner Prize markets simulated rebellion in the same manner pop music markets simulated sex. It is privatized art for bored Guardian readers. The tiny, scared elite that needs to believe in this boring prize, or “Thatcherite art”, timidly call me reactionary. Unfortunately for these pretenders, few people have better hedonistic, nihilist, alcoholic, confessional credentials than I do, and it’s only because I refuse to be a whore that I haven’t been championed as one of there heroes. Luckily, I am no longer that narrow.

I wouldn’t mind winning the Turner Prize, but not by making the anti-art I did 25 years ago, or by lying about my true feelings. So when I win the 2004 Prize, with cheque in hand, I’ll say, “Thank you your lordships, I will spend the money wisely. But may I just add that your transparent desire for revenge, power, fame and possessions mark you as nothing but phoneys. Your artists are phoneys, your prize is phoney and your celebrities, in so far as they celebrate nothing, are phoneys. Indeed, the age is phoney! Fashionable society may court you now but history will see you clearly for what you are: counterfeit culture. And it doesn’t matter how much you try to hush it up because nothing is out of the sight of god.”

PS. People who defend this type of art by saying it has wit and humour are lacking in wit and humour. Billy Childish 09 December 02

Note: In the interest of balanced reporting, Collective asked Tate Britain to comment on Billy’s piece. They replied as follows: “As we encourage the audience to express their opinions about the prize, we feel that we would not like to respond.”

The Turner Prize 2002 is on at Tate Britain until 05 January 03.

useful links
turner prize at tate britain
BBCi news: keith tyson wins the turner prize

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