Elizabeth Price in Conversation (2021)
Following the 'Assembly' exhibition at New Media Gallery, Elizabeth Price answered questions related specifically to 'A Restoration' (2016) and more generally, illuminated her practice.

A RESTORATION features the image archives of the Ashmolean Museum and Pitt Rivers Museums in Oxford, respectively museums of art and antiquities; anthropology and ethnography.

The images in these archives were created as documentation in the course of collecting, excavating, conserving and curating museum artefacts. Because the collections are long established, these archives include historic drawings and prints as well as photographs made in every stage of its technical development. All these images now also exist as digital images, and this 18 minute video provides a hectic pass through them. It takes an eccentric course, but on the way it features every type of document, and artefacts from every part of the collections.

The twin horizontal projections of A RESTORATION are used to present the images as series of rapid pictorial juxtapositions. At other times they mimic the desktop of a computer on which images swiftly stack up. Occasionally the two screens display a single image in a suggested panorama. In this way thousands of diverse images collide, bound together in contingent coherence using devices of storytelling, rhythmic melody and percussive sound.

The story is narrated by a chorus of self-proclaimed "museum administrators”. Their survey of the museum’s archive begins amongst the materials generated by Arthur Evans - the first director of the Ashmolean in its modern form - during his reckless excavation and reconstruction of Knossos, Crete. Speaking as a synthetic, collective voice, this chorus of administrators use Evans’s documents to satirically reconstruct his reconstruction of the ancient city, and then, at the conclusion of the work they use the same materials to stage its noisy fall.

The administrators claim this cacophony as a radical restoration. In imaginatively exercising an artefact’s forgotten capacity for noise, they sound the alarm for everything never recorded or understood about it. They also note the ancient and modern use of sound to inaugurate change in rules and laws (whistles, bells, gavels) . In this way, ancient objects are brought into a critical dynamic with contemporary crises, specifically the enduring legacies of colonialism and the evidentiary complexity of the digital.

Curators: Sarah Joyce + Gordon Duggan