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.