Elizabeth Price at the Ashmolean


After visiting the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Ashmolean I took a trip to the top of the building to watch Elizabeth Price's video piece about the collections at the Ashmolean and the Pitt-RIvers Museum which is the culmination of her time spent in Oxford. She had been commissioned to create a piece about some aspect of the museums' collections. The work was two years in the making.

As I dip my toe in video art I'm a bit of a fan of Elizabeth Price and much admired her Turner Prize piece about the fire at Woolworths called The Woolworths Choir of 1979. I love the style of her work in which she is seemingly able to match rhythm with images effortlessly. I know how much work actually goes into getting this effect.

This new piece did not disappoint. It is a 18-minute long video called A RESTORATION shown over two large screens in a darkened room. I found it utterly compeling and engaging. It shares with the Woolworths video that sense of a perfect matching of audio and visual and a beat which keeps the viewer watching. It is intellectual and thought-provoking. It is fast paced but not too much so. It builds up. It takes you with it. I felt it in my stomach. It has a narrative and narratives within that narrative. I won't give too much away: it is very much worth a visit.

I loved the mix of contemporary (almost science fiction) audio with imagesthat were reminiscent of Victorian obsessions with collecting and archiving. The visual text reminded me of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the bit with the Babel Fish). The voice was synthasized but just had something about it that was odd but somehow completely appropriate.

The video has so many messages played on many levels as well, about collecting, colonization, posession, obsession, history, our relationship with objects and civilization. I haven't stopped thinking about it a week later.

I am currently working on a video for my The Museum of the Lost Balloon project and this has given me a lot of inspiration just when I needed it, when I was stuck in that all too familiar pit of artistic angst.

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