Turner Prize 2021: Salmon farming and neurodiversity explored

·5 min read

Neurodivergent artists and the environmental impact of salmon farming are among the themes explored by the nominees featured in this year's Turner Prize exhibition.

For the first time, the work on display is from five shortlisted collectives who have helped to "inspire social change through art", organisers say.

They include Array Collective, Black Obsidian Sound System, Cooking Sections, Gentle/Radical and Project Art Works.

The show is being held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry as part of the city's celebrations of its status as UK City of Culture 2021.

Chenine Bhathena, creative director of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021, said: "This range of works is a testament to our vision for Coventry 2021, creating joyful artistic projects with a strong social conscience.

"It ties in with our belief that you can effect social change through art/culture, and this is more important now than ever before."

The winning group of the Turner Prize will be named on 1 December at a ceremony in Coventry Cathedral.

Here, we take a look at the work on show in the exhibition, which opens on 29 September and runs until 12 January.

Array Collective

Array 7
Array 7

Array Collective is a group of Belfast-based artists whose work tackles issues affecting Northern Ireland.

Their work encompasses performances, protests, exhibitions and events.

For the Turner exhibition, they have staged a work called The Druithaib's Ball, an immersive political work which recreates a síbín - an illegal bar harking back to 18th Century Northern Ireland.

The installation includes life-sized dolls, protest posters and a Diva show, with some performers in drag. It also highlights the negativity of homophobia as part of the collective's aim to bury Northern Ireland's sectarian past.

Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S)

Boss 3
Boss 3

Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S) are London-based, and work across art, sound and radical activism.

The group, which says it aims to bring together people who are "queer, trans and non-binary black and people of colour", seeks to challenge the perceived norms of sound-system culture across African communities in London - through club nights, art installations, technical workshops and film.

Their work in the Turner exhibition is called The Only Good System is a Sound System and does indeed include a large speaker, on which a bowl of water bubbles.

It's designed to represent an image of energy and power. Part of an immersive display which also features film and sculpture, the installation is said to reflect the ways in which marginalised groups have developed methods of coming together in the face of repression and discrimination in the UK.

The group have also set up a studio in a part of the gallery where it is showcasing its community work and in which they will be holding workshops and hosting a livestreamed radio broadcast.

Cooking Sections

Cooking Sections 6
Cooking Sections 6

Cooking Sections also hail from London and they examine the systems that organise the world through food.

Using installation, performance and video, they explore the overlapping boundaries between art, architecture, ecology and geopolitics.

On display in the exhibition is a visual spectacle called Salmon: Traces of Escapees, an installation which continues Cooking Sections' questioning of the impact of food habits on climate change.

It focuses on common perceptions of farmed salmon as an affordable luxury, and the reality of its environmental costs. It invites visitors to walk through luminescent circles of water projected on the floor of a darkened room.


Cardiff-based Gentle/Radical - made up of artists, community workers, performers, faith practitioners, writers and others - are advocating for art as a tool for social change.

They create real and virtual spaces for communities in Wales to engage with culture, such as a pop-up cinema space showing independent films.

Their space is decorated with messages about "involvement". People from their local community feature in a video that you can watch while sitting on a stool. This and other filmed works share ideas about personal and collective power and ask questions about society, such as the way we raise children beyond a nuclear family.

A second work shows them coming together to sing Welsh Gorsedd bardic prayers, written in the 18th Century as a reimagining of a Welsh culture lost to colonialism.

A third element of the presentation takes the form of notes on their ideas and those of others.

Project Art Works

Project Artworks
Project Artworks

Project Art Works is a collective of neurodiverse artists and makers based in Hastings.

Neurodiversity is defined as autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behaviour.

They say they explore art through collaborative practice with, for and by "neurominorities" - and their work appears in exhibitions, events, films and online.

At the Herbert, the artists they support are given centre stage. The collective has filled its space with paintings and drawings by the artists, which form part of a physical and digital archive of more than 4,000 works.

They include, among many, Neville Jermyn's drawing of a blue whale and Darryl Spencer's depiction of jungle foliage in lush charcoal, titled Collaboration.

There is also a studio for making work at the far end of the gallery, where artists can also meet and share stories.

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