Elisabeth Price: A Restoration

Elisabeth Price’s work at the Ashmolean, A Restoration 


Image from Apollo International Art magazine April 1st 

To quote the Ashmolean Press Release she has

 created a new work in response to the collections and archives of the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers museums, in partnership with the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, where Price teaches. The new commission is a fifteen-minute, two-screen digital video which employs the museums’ photographic and graphic archives. It is a fiction, set to melody and percussion, which is narrated by a ‘chorus’ of museum administrators.

I went to view the work yesterday and, before I saw it, to a lecture which gave a deep insight into the way Price works, as well as this piece.

She described how the work considers the sense of refuge, and the damage and repair implicit in Museums…the later not generally considered by a visiting public, I guess.

She used existing historical material, books and publications, images from packaging, found imagery and extrapolates from archival material but their is no visible human action only occasionally the artist’s hands ( these often crop up in her work but I didn’t get the chance to ask why?)

I felt this piece was particularly relevant for me, although I always find her work interesting from the point of view of remediated material and use of text and voice.

Because of the source of the Commission ( £60,000 over 3 years) being the Ruskin School, The Ashmolean and the Pitt Rivers Museum it references archaeology and anthropology which link, albeit indirectly in content, back to my research.

Digital Space and Archival Space

She was extremely open in describing her working process and methodology and even used a screen recording of her Desktop files in Adobe Premier Pro to show how she organised her material in folders and how this and the layers within Premier Pro were interpreted by her as a collage.

As if some of her work is buried beneath layers of information, building and stacking as part of the process of making the Timeline.

She described the sense of excavating, building and narrating during the making and also within the technology itself and its use.

The  connections  between Digital Space and the Space of Archive.

She described how ideas of Labyrinth, Chorus and Storytelling recur in her work and  cited User Group Disco  and Sleep as an example of this.

She described how debris exists in digital systems of exchange such as Ebay as well as in Car Boot sales and describes the items as  Objects with Unreadable code’


She also described Theodore Adorno’s Whirlpool, (which I’ve researched briefly and he seems to use the concept fairly frequently with various associated meanings.)

Price sees it in a Vinyl record…an object which contains other objects, a spiral of sounds and melodies-a reiteration pf information’

She described , I think, at this point, the finding of a Crystal Gayle single which has been a reference in her work since, where the owner’s signature on the sleeve of the record added an ‘epilogue or supplement to the archive’

The ‘real’ archive space

She provided autobiographical references and links to records, their purchase and the collectivity and intimate relationships which resulted during her early years in Oxford and the music business..

She went on the describe how her casual work in the archives of the Bodleian, as a student, gave her access and insight into what she described as, Gothic, chaotic, mysterious and leaky space which was very different from the ideal library structure visible above.

Her Methodology – What she puts in and what she leaves out 

This section made a huge impression on me… for better or for worse….

Price explained how she refuses to or cannot work reductively.She claims that the aspiration to be concise,m in her opinion, can have damaging side-effects and that truly concise is good but a failure is not so good.

She tends to work with Saturation , full and coagulating ( I feel this is more like my way of working… but whereas her work comes across as multi-layered and considered I fear mine is often confusing.

So that she was not driven mad during her process  (and this surely gives clarity of a sort to her work) she uses Architectural structures to give a spatial configuration to her work.

[This made me consider a structure for my work on the Hill/ Something I had already discussed with Jonathan K. Structure to provide access and freedom rather than restriction.I though at the time of a Field Plan, similar to that used when I was a plant breeder, to provide a sequence and layout for the pieces…. but on consideration this may be too geographical 

Edit: April 2016 – I used a Calendrical Structure which fed into the concepts of Rituals and fixed time/dates.]

She also uses Storytelling to connect things together, related she feels to the spiral form of a record, a ‘radically accessible form’, which she described as ‘Promiscuous’.

i.e. as Google says:demonstrating or implying an unselective approach; indiscriminate or casual.
synonyms: indiscriminate, undiscriminating, unselective, random, irresponsible, haphazard, thoughtless, unthinking, unconsidered, casual, careless

I agree with this interpretation as defined- for me the story or narrative is embodied,  then remediated as retold verbally or otherwise, connecting people, place and events just such a manner, which renders it so powerful…and penetrating ..like a meme but one that as Price describes, brings all sorts of things together, together.

I hope this will be evident in my work, in a non-linear form with non-architectural or geographic/ cartographic structure.

The result in Price’s case is a Hypnotic Double Screen video.

She describes : A reckless and dangerous restoration with love,commitment and a libidinal drive with moments of intoxication.

She finished her lecture by saying that ( I think, if my notes are correct)  that it is not necessary to restore.

That it is, in fact, an affront to do so.

 That we must live with this damage.

A powerful contemplation to end with.


I asked if Copyright was a problem, using found material in her work…especially in view of our recent lecture etc.

She answered simply ‘Yes’! and that she didn’t own the Copyright to the Crystal Gayle material that she uses so much in her work ( Though not in this piece!)

She also described how she uses the synthesised voice to provide an affectless narrative by using text to voice software…Claro read or similar I guess.

Something to play with in the future….

She also said that making the video ( 3 years work) meant that she was in a darkened room and was now taking a break and painting…feeling the joy of a drop of paint on the end of a brush!

This lecture was key to the acknowledgement of Saturation and as she said…putting it all in.

I decided to go for it, layers and all even if there was no linear or three dimensional structure….and risk confusion as the result if I made the themes too implicit.


Version Control : Arnolfini

During one of my recent early explorations into Periscope I discovered a broadcast from the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol and had a quick look around their website for further information. I couldn’t find what I had originally witnessed but discovered this previous work Version Control from 2013 in which  artists use mediation, appropriation and re-presentation of established material.A shame that I didn’t get to see it at the time.

“On-going reinstallation and a series of performance interventions add a further layer of performativity, as the exhibition itself changes over the course of its duration.”

Google tells me that Version control “is a system that records changes to a file or set of files over time so that you can recall specific versions later.”

The Exhibition Guide is interesting reading Version Control web and the Family Guide gives a wonderful simple summary of the Exhibition by saying that

“The artwork that is shown in the exhibition explores the idea of making the past present or looking and thinking about objects in a particular moment. Some of the artists work with performance to investigate this idea. Through performance or theatre an event can happen live in front of us, but also show us a version of something that has happened before.

The artists want us to think about the moment in time that they are showing us.

They are also talking about how we might represent or re-visit a moment in history.”

I used the list of  artists in the exhibition as a resource and was reminded in particular of the effective and affective storytelling of Seth Price. How he uses enigma and gaps in the story to produce a ‘tale’. This work in particular uses metaphor,  myth and omissions.

and Giles Bailey ( EDIT : though I saw this video with the torn-up text after I’d made cut-ups at MOD Kineton….)

I could hear a Periscope alert tone in the background…or maybe just a text!

Chantal Ackerman and Ryan Gander

I went to see two exhibitions, Fieldwork Ryan Gander at the Lisson Gallery and NOW Chantal Ackerman at Ambika 3.

Ryan Gander Fieldwork 

I always enjoy Ryan Gander’s work for the wit and humour alone, always refreshing and never dull. I love having a good laugh in a Gallery, especially the Lisson.

The playfulness with which he presented ‘Found objects'(which weren’t ) on a conveyor belt reminiscent of ‘ The Generation Game’  and the ‘evidence’ of his Field work. As  the press release states ” the forms convened in Fieldwork are elliptic and opaque, starting stories for the viewer to invent or complete.” This is, of course, what I find most alluring about his work

One thing distressed me this time though. The artist’s second phone, which was a giant billboard installed outside the gallery displaying Gander’s phone number  was also a ‘fake’….either that or he just didn’t reply to my text…..  This reminded me of the work I made for the Interim Show last year – my work included a flyer with my mobile number on it……. Nobody called!


The artist’s second phone Ryan Gander   Image  from wertical.com

Chantal Ackerman NOW 


This show was altogether different. Apart from the difference in the exhibition space, which for Ambika is huge, underground and  grey concrete and the fact that Ackerman’s work is video not object, Ackerman had died, by suicide, some months before this exhibition opened.That changes how it is viewed.

I looked at the work but also at the way the pieces were displayed. Often with multiple linked but separate projections making the almost but not quite identical images, almost painfully slow-moving films became fragments of a remembered whole for me. Sometimes there were  multiple screens to be wandered through so that their material presence became more like the physical presence of people to be moved around in a crowd or of a landscape to be navigated.

This review in Art Forum January 2016 gives insight into her work which has resonance for me.

 “The slow-moving, almost amatory pace of Ackerman’s films suggests she was prepared to use her camera to patiently probe…..” Kathy Halbreich

“Ackerman’s films often place us in the position of observer. They do not offer any definite interpretation that tells us what to think or how to look. We are left guessing.” Babette Mangolte