Elizabeth Price's 'A Gothic Choir'

  • 22 February 2021

Elizabeth Price’s moving image installations are intricate digital architectures where voice, event, edifice and artefact are summoned, gathered and assembled. Her Turner Prize-winning The Woolworths Choir of 1979 (2012) is, for example, an immersive installation that narrates a tragic event - a devastating fire which killed ten people at the Manchester Woolworths department store - via an uneven multitude of testimonies. Her 2016 installation A Restoration is a fiction narrated by a ‘chorus’ of museum administrators, working to reconstruct the abstruse form of the Knossos Labyrinth as a virtual chamber where collection data, images and texts flow and collide.

Across three episodes of British Art Talks, Elizabeth hones in on a subject matter that gives form not only to the strange harmonies and affectivity of these works and others, but to her practice as a whole: the Gothic. The talk is an eye-opening assemblage of exemplar footage, the voice of the artist and historical as well as contemporary gothic imagery.

A Gothic Choir: Part 1

The complexity and plasticity of the gothic structure, ‘made without plan or prior conception’, its accompanying diagrams, arcane terminologies and evocations of immersive song are all channelled by Price’s digital works. Part 1 features revelatory photographs of the ecclesiastical architecture of Gloucester, Exeter and Winchester cathedrals.

Part 2, Plans and Elevations

In their construction, Price’s works seize on the potential of the unfinished, unseen and heterogeneous aspects of the gothic edifice, whilst noting the ancestral and patriarchal structures of the gothic choir and its pews. Here, describing her use of architecture as method, Price reflects on this troubled and divided state, echoed in the experience of the artist’s working and making.

Part 3, Song and Dans

Conjuring samples of disembodied voice and garment from across the artist’s oeuvre, this talk explores gothic hauntings and anxieties. It features drawings by sculptor John Flaxman (b. 1755), etchings by caricaturist Jon Kay (b. 1742) and medieval invocations of the ‘danse macabre’ along with excerpts of Isabella van Elferen’s The Phantom Voices of the Technological Uncanny.