Array Collective is a group of Belfast-based artists who create collaborative actions in response to issues affecting Northern Ireland with recent projects including public artworks in support of the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.
The group were commended by the Turner Prize Jury for their ability to combine seriousness with humour and tackle present issues using ancient folk imagery.
Of the Array Collective members, Emma Campbell and Alessia Cargnelli are PhD Researchers at Ulster University. Laura O’Connor, Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell, Jane Butler, Clodagh Lavelle and Stephen Millar are Ulster University Alumni.
Emma Campbell, a member of the collective and a PhD Researcher at Ulster University commented:
"Being part of Array Collective has carried us all through some really monumental personal and political upheavals. The Turner Prize is not something we ever had in our sights as a collective, we've always just been focused on what is important to each other, in the moment. We are all artists with individual practices of a like mind, which enables us to practice together in a non-hierarchical, fun and informal way, even when grappling with serious issues.
“We are surprised but excited about the Turner Prize nomination, which we hope we can use to highlight some of the most urgent needs of people in the North, but also to demonstrate what can be created when we come together even in difficult circumstances. Despite the lack of understanding or resourcing for collectives and studio groups, and the lack of understanding of the wider arts ecology in general from statutory bodies and Government, the arts community here is vibrant and supportive. We intend to bring some of that craic to the Turner Prize."
Emma Campbell is in the final stages of her PhD which addresses photography as an embedded interdisciplinary artistic practice and an activist tool in the movement for abortion rights in the North of Ireland from 2013 - 2020.
An exhibition of Array Collective’s work will be held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry from 29 September 2021 to 12 January 2022 as part of the UK City of Culture 2021 celebrations.
The winner of the Turner Prize will be announced on the 1st December 2021, at an award ceremony at Coventry Cathedral and will receive £25,000, each of the other nominated groups will receive £10,000.
Dr Justin Magee, Research Director at the Belfast School of Art added:
“We are all immensely proud of the Array Collective and the contribution that our PhD Researchers and graduates have made. The Turner Prize is one of the highest accolades in the art world, so to be nominated for this prestigious award at such an early stage in their artistic lives is incredible. We look forward with great anticipation to see what changes their work can bring.
“It is poignant that all the nominees this year were highlighted for their work with communities across the UK to inspire social change through art. This really underlines the positive and powerful impact that art can have and we hope it will inspire other researchers and students to do similar.”
For the first time ever, the shortlist for the prize is entirely made up of artist collectives, with no individual artists shortlisted. Array Collective are joined on the shortlist by Cooking Sessions, a London-based duo examining the systems that organise the world through food; Black Obsidian Sound System (BOSS), a collective of QTIBPOC (Queer, Trans and Intersex Black and People of Colour) artists challenging norms of sound-system culture across the African diaspora; Gentle/Radical, a Cardiff-based project run by artists, community workers, performers, faith practitioners and writers advocating for art as a tool for social change; and Hastings-based Project Art Works, which is a group of neurodiverse artists – people with brain differences such as ADHD and autism.
The Turner Prize aims to promote discussions around new developments in contemporary British Art and is one of the world’s most famous prizes for the visual arts.