The Turner Prize for contribution to contemporary art is not large but carries priceless benefits of exposure and prestige. While watching the award of this year’s Turner Prize I found myself thinking, yet again, about Gaza.
A panel of judges determines a short list of four artists, born or based in the U.K. Works by these four artists are displayed to the public. The judges then make their final selection with the winner being announced in a televised ceremony.
But this year was different. The four nominees wrote to the judges asking if they could share the prize. They said that they wanted to send a message of togetherness in troubled political times.
“At this time of political crisis in Britain and much of the world, when there is already so much that divides and isolates people and communities, we feel strongly motivated to use the occasion of the Prize to make a collective statement in the name of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity – in art as in society”.
The Booker prize committee was similarly troubled. The literary prize, awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom, is usually given to one out of a short-list of six writers. This year the prize was shared between two writers.
The Booker prize has been jointly awarded in the past, but in 1993 the rules were changed, limiting the award to just one author. This year, however, the judges ignored those rules, saying they could not agree on an outright winner between the two books.
More and more, we are seeing a reluctance to have “winners” because this is unfair to the “losers”. Every effort must be made to keep everyone happy. But this can be problematic as was well understood by the Gilbert in the title of my Blog. Many years ago, W. S. Gilbert, of the famous Gilbert and Sullivan partnership, wrote in his operetta The Gondoliers – “When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.”
A long time ago, there was the First World War. The leaders of the USA, Great Britain and France met in Versailles to decide what should happen to defeated Germany. The Treaty of Versailles was drawn up, without Germany, and laid down many conditions which only served to upset Germany, which had come through the war more or less intact. The surrender, and subsequent treaty, in fact, laid the groundwork for the start of Second World War.
By the end of the Second World War, the Allies had learnt their lesson. It did not end with an agreement that both Germany and the Allies had won. The victory was not shared between the participants. There was no Turner Prize, no Booker Prize; Germany was brought to its knees. Germany was forced to surrender unconditionally, while pleading for mercy towards its people and its armed forces.
It seems that we in Israel are suffering from the same misguided ideas – there are those who believe that there should be no “winner”, no “loser” in our struggle with the people of Gaza. Victory has become a bad word. We may well want to help our neighbours rebuild their country, we should offer them our hand of friendship, but there must first be a winner – we can’t both win although we can most certainly both lose.