USER GROUP DISCO is an energetic critique of the authoritarian voice of the museum and the way in which objects are fetishised through their selection, categorisations and presentation. Commissioned by Spike Island in Bristol, this important film is the second piece in a trilogy forming part of an ongoing series that navigates the notional architecture and collection of a fictional museum, with this work being the ‘Hall of Sculptures’. There are no conventional sculptures in this museum, however, just as there are no people and no visible spatial environments or architectures — simply the debris of rotating and pirouetting objects, utensils and ornaments in a black void. The choreography of these sculptures is accompanied by a pulsating soundtrack whilst text statements from celebrated male authors such as Adorno, Borges and Melville are collaged over the top. This layered combination collapses the distinctions between art objects and social history artefacts, and the strange and compulsive desires of consumerism, as Price says: ‘I wanted to create a sense of being inside taxonomical categories, as if they were crumbling, dripping architecture filed with litter and debris.’ By doing this Price draws attention to the ways in which objects are classified, displayed and given status and meaning in museological systems and offers a prism through which to understand human civilisation and history.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA) opened in August 1960 at Inverleith House, a 1770s building set in the middle of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden. The collection, however, began to outgrow the space available, and in 1985 the gallery moved to the premises of the former John Watson School, a neo-classical building designed by William Burn in 1825, where it is still housed. The Gallery of Modern Art is the younger partner in the triumvirate of galleries which make up the National Galleries of Scotland (including The Scottish National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery). The collection includes over 5,000 works and spans a period from 1890 to the present day, beginning with Bonnard, Vuillard, and Matisse and British artists such as Sickert, Orpen and William Nicholson. As well as French and Russian art from the early 20th century, the collection has superb holdings of Expressionist and modern British art, and the most important and extensive collection of modern Scottish art. Most notably perhaps, SNGMA has a world-class collection of Dada and Surrealist art. The majority of these works were acquired through two important collectors, Sir Roland Penrose (1900–84) and Mrs Gabrielle Keiller (1908–95).
Penrose owned a superb collection of early twentieth-century art and was a close friend to many of the French Surrealists as well as Picasso, and the SNGMA now owns some twenty-six drawings and paintings, including works by Dalí, Delvaux, Ernst, Magritte and Picasso as well as substantial archival material from the Penrose collection. Gabrielle Keiller’s collection of Dada and Surrealist art and her substantial collection of work by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi were donated in 1995 along with rare books and manuscripts related to the Surrealist art movement. With the donation of ARTIST ROOMS in 2008 by Anthony d’Offay, the gallery has an outstanding collection of international post-war art, with major works by artists such as Richter, Koons, Mapplethorpe and Warhol.
It has been through a combination of curatorial ambition and good fortune that the excellent collection at SNGMA has been formed. As the Director Simon Groom comments, ‘A new work has the potential not only to allow us to show the best of what is contemporary, but to renew our view of what we hold already, to ensure that collections remain perpetually new.’ This is exactly what Groom takes to be the subject of USER GROUP DISCO, which in his eyes is ‘a work about the status of objects through time rendered utterly seductive through the film’s sensuous superficiality.’
Biography – Elizabeth Price
Elizabeth Price was born in Bradford in 1966, and lives and works in London. She studied Fine Art at Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, before graduating from the Royal College of Art, London, in 1991. Her recent solo exhibitions include: THE TENT, Bloomberg SPACE, London; HERE, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2012): The Woolworths Choir of 1979 MOT International, London (2012); CHOIR Chisenhale Gallery, London (2011); Frieze Projects, Frieze Art Fair, London (2010); Perfect Courses and Shimmering Obstacles, Contemporary Art Society Centenary Programme at Tate Britain (2010); USER GROUP DISCO, Spike Island, Bristol (2009); At the House of Mr X, Stanley Picker Gallery, London (2007) and A Public Lecture and Exhumation, Studio Voltaire, London (2006). Her numerous group exhibitions include: Turner Prize 2012, Tate Britain, London (2012–13); British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham and touring (2011); Stuttgart Filmwinter, Filmhaus, Stuttgart (2010); The Sculpture Show, Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2009) and Strange Events Permit Themselves the Luxury of Occurring, Camden Arts Centre, London (2008).
USER GROUP DISCO was acquired for the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art through the generosity of guests who supported this acquisition at our Annual Fundraiser 2012, which was chaired by Trustee Sarah Elson.
We are grateful to the Zabludowicz Collection for in-kind technical support to realise this display.