MOT International
Register for
news and updates

The woolworths choir of 1979

Elizabeth Price

25th April - 26th May 2012 PV 24th April, 6 - 8 PM

  • Images
  • Information

Elizabeth Price presents her new video The Woolworths Choir of 1979, composed of three distinct yet supplementary episodes. The work is installed within a precise sculptural environment designed by the artist for MOTINTERNATIONAL’s new premises.

In her video Price draws parallels between the processes of artistic, archival and social assembly. The word ‘choir’ is commonly used to refer to an ensemble of singers, but it also describes the area of a church consisting of ornately carved pews built to hold such a group. Archival photographs, clicks and choral fragments, virtual 3D renderings and measured captions lifted from art historical documents are used to outline the architecture of an ecclesiastical auditorium. At once a visual and acoustic chamber as well as a digital and spectral space, empty but impeccably preserved, enclosed by medieval tracery. Images are shuffled and arranged by the hands of a researcher to elaborate the hierarchical infrastructure of the choir; a 3-, 4- or 5-fold tiered stall, designed to hold a bank of singers and organise their individual roles, a corollary of the format of stacked timelines and footage cache in editing software. Price’s sensitivity and proficiency within the medium of video presses the language of editing into the service of subject and idea.

Our attention is directed to representational church motifs such as leaf-shaped trefoils, flame-shaped ogees, and profane wooden carvings, expressing a psychological subconscious for the institution, before resting on the animated twisted wrist of a figurative sarcophagus. It is this ambiguous and eloquent hand gesture that carries the film through three very different archives of material.

In the second episode Price imagines how a body might exist within an austere and prohibitive space such as this, and assembles a sentient, powerful female chorus constructed from broiling, low quality digital images. This manifold voice speaking in terms of ‘we’ suggests that to know is to embody and seizes the vocabulary of the authoritative, historical narration. Thus the arrangements for theatre are in order, an auditorium and a chorus are set up and ready for an event to be staged. The dramatic action is delivered by footage of a notorious fire appropriated from public BBC news and documentary archives, reconstructed and denaturalised by Price and the contingency of the hand gesture. The fire started and the film ends in the densely layered enclosure of a furniture stock room in the Manchester branch of Woolworths, completing the narrative cycle.

Elizabeth Price (b. 1966, Bradford) lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include 'HERE', Baltic, Newcastle (Feb-May 2012); 'CHOIR', New Museum, New York (2011); 'Perfect Courses and Shimmering Obstacles', Tate Britain (2010); 'THE TENT', Frieze Projects & Channel 4 (2010); and 'USER GROUP DISCO', Spike Island, Bristol (2009). Recent group exhibitions include 'British Art Show 7', Hayward Gallery, London (2011); and 'Archivo-Archivanti', Intermediae, Madrid (2011). Forthcoming exhibitions include 'THE TENT' Bloomberg, London (May 2012).

The Woolworths Choir of 1979 was developed while Elizabeth Price was the Arts Council England Helen Chadwick Fellow at the University of Oxford and British School at Rome in 2010-11. Production was supported by the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art and Creative Scotland through a Collective commission for 'The Indirect Exchange of Uncertain Value'.

Acknowledgements to BBC Motion Gallery, the North West Film Archive and BRE.