Elizabeth Price, winner of the 2013 Contemporary Art Society Award, 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. A RESTORATION (2016) is a fifteen-minute, two-screen digital video which employs the museums’ photographic and graphic archives and will go on show at the Ashmolean 18 March 2016 – 15 May 2016.
A fiction, set to melody and percussion, is narrated by a ‘chorus’ of museum administrators and opens with the records of Arthur Evans’s excavation of the Cretan city of Knossos. The administrators use Evans’s extraordinary documents and photographs to figuratively reconstruct the Knossos Labyrinth within the museum’s computer server. They then imagine its involuted space as a virtual chamber through which a wide range of artefacts from the two museums digitally flow, clatter and cascade.
Elizabeth Price said: ‘It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with the museums, to have such a unique opportunity to delve into their archives and draw upon the knowledge and expertise of their staff. In my film I have tried to reflect upon the objects that the two museums hold and exhibit, through the history of their repeated depiction in photographs, prints and drawings. In this history of images and interpretations we see the objects change – and this is the basis for the story I have imagined.’
Turner Prize winner, Elizabeth Price, is an artist who uses images, text and music to explore archives and collections. While her work is informed by mainstream cinema and experimental film, it is mostly concerned with the medium of digital video and its comparative ubiquity in today’s culture. Through judicious editing Price composes the material into narratives which shift between different archives and collections seeking to expose the links between materials that have very different histories.
Born in Bradford in 1966, Elizabeth Price lives and works in London. She was educated at the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford and the Royal College of Art, London, and she gained a PhD in Fine Art from the University of Leeds in 1999. She has exhibited in group exhibitions across the globe, and has had solo exhibitions at Tate, Whitechapel Gallery, and the British Film Institute, London; the New Museum, New York; and the Musée d’art Contemporain, Montréal. In 2012 she was the winner of the Turner Prize with her work, THE WOOLWORTHS CHOIR OF 1979, described by veteran art critic Richard Dorment in the Telegraph as, ’20 of the most exhilarating minutes I’ve ever spent in an art gallery. ’
Caroline Douglas, Director of the Contemporary Art Society, says: ‘This has been an exemplary collaboration between artist and institution, and one where both have gained significantly from the experience of working together. Elizabeth Price is an artist of rare intelligence who has brought an invigorating new approach to understanding the world class collections of the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums. We anticipate that this commission will prove a benchmark for many years to come.’
Dr Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean Museum, says: ‘This award has created an extraordinary opportunity for two of the world’s oldest museums to work with one of the most innovative and exciting contemporary artists, Elizabeth Price. We are profoundly grateful to the Contemporary Art Society and to Elizabeth. Her work will be the first digital artwork to enter the Ashmolean’s collection and breaks new ground for the Museum’s programme of contemporary art.’