First-look art review: Turner Prize, Tramway, Glasgow

Janice Kerbel's Doug. Picture: Alan Dimmick

Janice Kerbel's Doug. Picture: Alan Dimmick

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GLASGOW’S Tramway, looking rather spruce after more than just a wee lick of paint, plays host to a Turner Prize 2015 exhibition that offers audiences the chance to touch things and take part.

If this year’s nominees are short on straightforward aesthetic pleasures, the show offers a snapshot of a contemporary art world that has designs on every aspect of our lives. The exhibition includes a reading room, a workshop, musical performances by a classical vocal ensemble and only one room that is recognisably full of sculpture.

Janice Kerbel’s Doug is a musical suite consisting of nine tales for six voices, performed at intervals in the gallery. They tell of the untimely end of the hapless Doug, including unfortunate encounters with a bear and a falling tortoise. A shaggy dog story, and a rigorous examination of musical convention, Doug is funny and curiously vital.

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In Bonnie Camplin’s reading room, entitled Patterns, visitors can watch films about ‘thought control’ and read and photocopy a vast library resource, from conspiracy theory classics to counter-cultural figures like RD Laing. At the heart of Camplin’s project is the question of how we make sense of our lives amidst complex modern technology.

Nicole Wermer’s Infrastruktur is more recognisably installation art: a room of classic modern chairs modified with fur is a rather attractive formal arrangement that also reminds us of the strange phenomena of boundaries and personal space.

Assemble is a collective of artists, architects and designers nominated for their work in Toxteth, Liverpool restoring derelict homes. They have created a showroom for their Granby Workshop so gallery visitors can learn hands on how local people are creating household goods from simple materials in a small social enterprise.

If this year’s show requires both attention and activity to come truly to life, it offers a vision of an art world that is reaching beyond the confines of the gallery walls, into our homes and, at times, into our heads.

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