Congratulations to Mark Wallinger for winning the Turner Prize. He probably deserves the gong, given his often potent contribution to British art over the last twenty years. I loved his Fourth Plinth statue; certainly a lot better than bloody Alison Lapper.
Wallinger won for a piece called State Britain. At the time, his reassemblage of poor old Brian Haw’s Parliament Square protest was declared a supremely political act. “How rich this work is, and how saddening our state,” burbled the Guardian.
Interviewed after winning, Wallinger maintained this political line. “By happenstance I was able to make a work that had some relevance to what’s going on in Britain and in the world”, he said, He also paid tribute to Haw: “A remarkable man, who has waged a tireless campaign against the folly and hubris of our government’s foreign policy.”
Haw may well be a special man, although not necessarily in the most complementary sense of that word. His protest, however, is not political, or even campaigning. Much like the anti-war movement itself, it was (and remains) a rag-bag of often competing slogans, all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Spiked had it bang to rights: “you cannot call it a protest, because it is a wail, not an argument”.