An artist who reconstructed an iconic encampment of anti-war banners and placards at Parliament Square has been nominated for the Turner Prize in Britain, among a shortlist of artists who make trenchant political statements.
Mark Wallinger's reconstruction of veteran protester Brian Haw's "one man protest" at Westminster has been nominated for the controversial art prize, alongside the works of Zarina Bhimji, Nathan Coley and Mike Nelson.
The preoccupations of the various works range from Wallinger's reproduction of the Iraq war protest to Idi Amin's represssive regime in Uganda and commentaries on the waning power of religious institutions.
Miranda Sawyer, a journalist on the judging panel, says the issue-led shortlist reflected the fact that "we live in political times". Christopher Grunenberg, director of Tate Liverpool, where the prize will be presented, added that the jury, of which he is chair, had not intended to pick out political works but a surprising "pattern" had emerged."
"It was not our intention to set out a political message. It was just interesting that we discovered this patterning which seemed to emerge. Only after the jury had met and discussed the works did we realise there was a strong concentration of political work and work about religious belief and spirituality."
The shortlists in previous years for the coveted £25,000 ($33,560) contemporary art prize, have been criticised for being too "conceptual" and divorced from social reality.
One year, Tony Kaye attempted to submit a homeless steel worker as his entry, while Damien Hirst won in 1995 with a pickled sheep. State Britain by Wallinger, who was previously nominated in 1995 but lost out to Hirst, which is on show in Tate Britain, transforms Haw's real-world protest against the war in Iraq into a work of art.
Haw first began his protest in June 2001, and quickly became a fixture, with his bulging display including banners painted by graffiti artist Banksy, and placards brandishing slogans such as "Peace Salam Shalom" and "UK troops out of Iraq".
In 2005, the British Government passed a law restricting protests within 1km of Parliament, which forced Haw's removal from his protest spot, opposite the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, sculptor Nathan Coley has been shortlisted for three installations which use architecture to make political and religious commentary: Camouflage Mosque, Camouflage Church and Camouflage Synagogue, made from cardboard and covered in blue and white striped World War II warship tape, and for his film, Jerusalem Syndrome, which takes the viewer on a journey around three holy sites representing the world's major monotheistic religions.
Mike Nelson, another previous Turner nominee, was selected for his labyrinthine installations that serve to disorient the viewer, and is perhaps the least overtly political of the nominated quartet. His nominated work, Mirror Infill, which appeared at last year's Frieze Art Fair, was praised by Sawyer as a powerful antidote to the "slick commercialism" of the fair.
Zarina Bhimji's work was influenced by her expulsion from Uganda in 1974 and includes photographs as well as installations which reflect back on the land that she left.
There are no painters on the shortlist this year. The German abstract painter, Tomma Abts, won last year.
The prize's presentation in Liverpool in December, the first time in its 23-year history that it has been taken outside London, is hoped to act as a curtain-aiser for Liverpool's selection as the European Capital of Culture in 2008.