Turner Prize nominates ‘boundary-pushing’ non-binary artist for queer drag dreamscape

Non-binary artist Sin Wai Kin eats noodles during their film "A Dream of Wholeness in Parts"

For the first time in the Turner Prize’s 37-year history, an out non-binary artist has been named on the shortlist for the lucrative prize. 

Canadian artist Sin Wai Kin, a drag performer, was named in the four-strong shortlist for the art prize.

The London-based performer was nominated for their involvement in the British Art Show 9 and their solo presentation at the Blindspot Gallery, Frieze London. 

Their work focuses on telling stories through performance, moving images, writing and print. Much of their art draws on their “experience existing between binary categories” and “realises fictional narratives to describe lived realities of desire, identification and consciousness”. 

The Turner Prize jury especially loved Sin’s film Dream of Wholeness in Parts (2021) which blends traditional Chinese philosophy and drama with modern drag, music and poetry. In the film, different characters wake up from consecutive dreams as they travel through a beautiful dreamscape.

The Turner Prize judges said they were “impressed by the boundary-pushing nature of Sin’s work” and how they “deftly translated the visceral quality of their live performances into film”.

In a post on Instagram, Sin Wai Kin shared that they are “honoured” to be nominated for the top British art prize alongside “artists I admire so much”. 


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A post shared by 單Sin 慧Wai 乾Kin (@sinforvictory)

Sin told the White Review last year that “storytelling is central” to their work, and that science fiction has been an influence on their thinking.

They explained that the narrative of A Dream of Wholeness in Parts is “influenced by the Taoist allegory Chuang Tzu’s ‘Dream of the Butterfly”. 

“In the allegory, a philosopher wakes up from a vivid dream, in which he’s been a butterfly, only to find that he is no longer sure which state of consciousness is true,” Sin said.

“My film contains seven dreams that I wanted to function in the same way as Tzu’s allegory.”

They continued: “The characters move through a dreamscape, waking up from each consecutive dream, feeling unsure about where reality lies.”

The main characters in the film are “The Universe and The Construct”, Sin explained, who they used to “expand on gender and racial binaries that I’ve been deconstructing in the past few years”. 

The Turner Prize, which was established in 1984, is an annual prize presented to a visual artist working in Britain or a British artist working globally. The top award is £25,000 and an additional £10,000 each goes to the other shortlisted artists.

The 2022 nominees’ work will be displayed at Tate Liverpool from 20 October through to 19 March 2023. Other nominees include Heather Phillipson, Ingrid Pollard and Veronica Ryan.

Phillipson was nominated for her Trafalgar Square fourth plinth commission “The End” – which looks like a dollop of ice cream topped with a cherry, a fly and a drone – as well as her solo exhibition “Rupture No 1: blowtorching the bitten peach” at Tate Britain.

Pollard works primarily in photography but also has expanded into sculpture, film and sound. The jury loved her solo exhibition “Carbon Slowly Turning” at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes and said her body of work has “uncovered stories and histories hidden in plain sight”.

The Turner Prize jury commended Ryan’s “highly accomplished new body of work” created during a residency at Spike Island, which “explores ecology, history”, “dislocation” and the “psychological impact of the pandemic”. The judges also praised the “exquisite sensuality and tactility of her sculptures” for her Hackney Windrush Art Commission in London.

The Turner Prize winner will be announced in December at a ceremony in Liverpool.