Elizabeth Price has had quite an eclectic career. During her student days, the Yorkshire born artist fronted the indie band “Tululah gosh.” The band, which achieved notoriety in the U.K. and U.S., disbanded in 1988, two years after Price left. Their sound was a hybrid of post-punk meets sweetheart vocals in an audible homage to the girl bands of the late 50’s/60’s. Price then went on to study sculpture in the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford and the Royal College of Art, London. In 2012 she won the Turner Prize for her solo exhibition, ‘Here’, at theBALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Upon winning the Prize, Price made an impassioned speech about the degradation of art education in Britain.
Price’s work is the creation of immersive video installations, which feature a diverse mixture of historical materials, archival documents, digital animation, photographs and samples from pop music. Price’s installations are time-consuming productions, often taking over a year to complete as she regularly revisits old works to re-create and update versions. Price’s installations are created with the intention of being viewed by the audience in a gallery so the experience of the installations can be all consuming.
“The Woolworths Choir of 1979” (2012) is a film installation, which comprises three distinct sections; the first examines the choral architecture of churches and the examination of what the word “chorus” derives from. The second concentrates on coordinated dance routines performed by pop groups and backing singers; (a recurring theme in Price’s work, since her days in Tuluah gosh) and the third focuses on archive footage from the notorious fire at the Woolworths department store in Manchester in 1979. The video, combined with the text that appears on-screen is reminiscent of the aesthetics of advertising and propaganda, lending the piece the seductive undertone of ritual and desire. The footage of people in Price’s pieces is never directly filmed; they are scoured from across the Internet and archives of newsrooms.
Physical gestures recur throughout the film, and parallels are drawn between the movements of a woman hand waving from a window of Woolworths as she awaits rescue and those of the dancers and singers, twisting and moving their arms for musical emphasis. The hand gestures; the clapping, clicking, waving and dancing become the point of assembly presented in The Woolworths Choir of 1979. When combined with the recurring sounds, music and digital graphics, the effect is that of a dissonant, evocative chorus, which floats somewhere between social history and fantasy.