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Turner Prize shortlist features artist who interviewed ex-Syrian prisoners

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, installation view of Earwitness Inventory at Chisenhale Gallery (courtesy the artist and Chisenhale Gallery, London. Photo by Andy Keate)
Lawrence Abu Hamdan, installation view of Earwitness Inventory at Chisenhale Gallery (courtesy the artist and Chisenhale Gallery, London. Photo by Andy Keate)

An artist who conducted interviews for an installation with former detainees of a notorious jail in Syria has been shortlisted for this year’s Turner Prize.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan, 34, used survivor testimonies from Saydnaya, a high-security prison which has been described as an “architectural instrument of torture”,  to create a sound installation.

Prisoners had been subjected to total sensory deprivation and forced to live in darkness in the prison, operated by President Assad’s Syrian regime.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan (Miro Kuzmanovic/PA)

The artist, who lives in Beirut, “used sound effects to help six survivors recall their audio memories, to map the unknown architecture of the prison and to understand what happened there.”

His interviews were part of an audio investigation by Amnesty International and research group Forensic Architecture and were interspersed with re-enacted whispers in the installation.

The shortlist for the contemporary art prize also features Helen Cammock, 48, who lives in London and whose film explores the history and role of women in the civil rights movement in Londonderry in 1968.

Portrait of Helen Cammock
Helen Cammock (Magda Stawarska-Beavan/courtesy the artist/PA)

Her film “weaves together various archive materials, newly produced footage and a series of interviews Cammock made with women active in the movement, as well as those affected by it.”

The work of Colombian-born Oscar Murillo,  33, included installing industrial ovens to make “sculptures made of corn mixed with clay, resembling rocks or bread, in a work addressing consumption, labour and basic human sustenance.

“The sculptures were piled up in heaps or bulged out of intestine-like forms, along with stuffed cloth torsos, printed with workers’ slogans and international trade routes.”

Oscar Murillo (Jungwon Kim © Oscar Murillo, courtesy the artist and David Zwirner/PA)

Murillo’s work explores “materials, process and labour, as well as issues of migration, community, exchange and trade in today’s globalised world”.

Self-taught artist Tai Shani, 42, who lives in London and explores “feminine subjectivity and experience through a gothic/science-fiction lens” completes the shortlist.

Oscar Murillo, installation view of Collective Conscience 2018
Oscar Murillo, installation view of Collective Conscience 2018 (Timo Ohler/courtesy the artist and David Zwirner/PA)

An exhibition of work by the four shortlisted artists will be held from  September 28, 2019 to January 12, 2020 at Turner Contemporary in Margate.

The winner of the £40,000 prize will be announced on December 3 at an award ceremony live on the BBC.

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