Hobson’s Choice: Elizabeth Price at MOT International

4 May 2012 By
Hobson's Choice: Elizabeth Price

Paul Hobson, Director of the Contemporary Art Society, recommends his favourite exhibition of the week.

Elizabeth Price, The Woolworths Choir of 1979 at MOT International

25 April – 26 May 2012

First Floor, 72 New Bond Street, London

Open Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm or by appointment.


Elizabeth Price’s new video ‘The Woolworths Choir of 1979’ – just opened at the new MOT gallery in New Bond Street – is immediately absorbing.  The work is composed in three parts and staged within a precise sculptural environment.  The parts are seductively linked by a powerful and visceral hand gesture twisting upwards (a gesture associated with performance, slinky and aspirational) and a snapping rhythm of clicks and sharp claps.  The first part examines the word ‘choir’ as the site in a church designed to house and arrange a bank of singers.  A strong sense of physical place and an outline of the architecture of an ecclesiastical auditorium is built through archival photographs and diagrams, fragments of choral song, close up’s of gargoyles, trefoils and text drawn from historical documents.  At once visual and acoustic it is a testament to Price’s characteristically intelligent handle on the medium of video and language of editing, which has resulted in her being nominated for this year’s Turner Prize.  The second part of the film sweeps over you.  Price builds a fictional choir of women from grainy 70’s footage of singers and choruses, twisting on a stage with arms curling up-wards, low voices and faces never quite seen.  They sing “We know. We are chorus” and block printed words in bright colours flash on the screen.  Thus the traditional components for theatre are set, there is a stage and a chorus and both build up to an event…  The event is a fire: shots of old documentary footage of savage flames spilling out of a furniture stock room in the Manchester branch of Woolworths and news interviews with survivors are layered alongside the rhythm of clicks, curling hand gestures – the survivors and passers-by interviewed are all pointing upwards in recounting the drama- and the film ends.  Elizabeth Price is an important artist of the current generation.  Do not miss this show.

Image: Elizabeth Price, The Woolworths Choir of 1979 (video still), 2012. HD video. Courtesy the artist and MOT International

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