British artist and Turner Prize recipient Elizabeth Price is renowned for her immersive video installations, which incorporate digital moving image, text, and music. Her works often engage a place and its history through a broad range of sources including historical artifacts, archival images, and documents. Together, these sources are granted a new agency through the artist’s institutional and feminist critique as well as her sensitivity to the sensuousness of video as a medium.
This installation presents two multichannel videos by Price—K (October 11–November 26) and A Restoration (December 1–January 7)—recently acquired by the museum.
The split-screen composition K (2015) brings together disparate elements—text, image, synthetic voice, and soundtrack—in a witty and emotional exploration of lamentation, commerce, and labor. To the left is a stop-frame animation of the sun, created from vintage glass-plate negatives. The screen to the right features an assembly line, rendered in CGI animation, as it manufactures and packages ocher-colored tights. Various views of the process alternate with grainy black-and-white footage of entertainers. Binding these elements together is a hypnotic narrative composed by Price and attributed to the Krystals, “professional mourners,” who speak in a voice rendered by text-to-voice technology. Images of dancers and singers migrate between the two screens, seemingly responding to both the light of the sun and the motion of machinery. Embodied and disembodied stockings, the noise of the factory floor, all while a sun refuses to set—the astutely appropriated and intercut languages of production, marketing, display, and use here constitute a vertiginous experience of both pleasure and dread.
A Restoration (2016) was inspired by the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums in Oxford, and specifically by Arthur Evans, who excavated the Bronze Age site of Knossos on Crete. In his “restoration” Evans imposed his own vision onto the remains of the lost civilization, and Price uses that paradox to probe the nature of restoration by composing one of her own, mining the worlds of archaeology, museology, semiology, and even data administration. This immersive, two-channel video installation incorporates a wide range of objects in the collections, from Evans’s own findings to Mesopotamian figurines. Over a soundtrack that Price made in collaboration with a musician, we hear the computergenerated voice of the modern-day Greek “chorus,” here a composite of different kinds of “administrators” associated with institutional organizations over time. As with all of her work, A Restoration borrows strategies and techniques from advertising, cinema, music videos, and feminist critiques of display, among other spheres. This work revalues ancient objects, as well as their variously historicized contexts, to map an unsettling digital landscape of contemporary culture.
Elizabeth Price. Still from K, 2015. Wilson L. Mead Trust Fund for the Encouragement of Art; The Neil G. Bluhm Contemporary Art Matching Fund Initiative.