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Conceptual Video Artist Takes Home the 2012 Turner Prize

by Kyle Chayka on December 4, 2012

Screencapture from Elizabeth Price’s “The Woolworths Choir of 1979″ (2012)

The Turner Prize this year held surprisingly little controversy — the artists nominated were recognizable names that made relatively sanguine work, from Paul Noble’s microscopic, hand-drawn imagined worlds to Luke Fowler’s biographical documentaries. The hippie, sometimes-bearded performance and theater artist Spartacus Chetwynd was perhaps the only outlier. This year’s winner, announced yesterday, is video artist Elizabeth Price, who contributed a video work based on an infamous department store fire to the annual exhibition.

Price’s “The Woolworths Choir of 1979″ (2012) combined footage from the fire, which killed 10 people, with 1960s girl-group clips from the Shangri-Las. The subtle, historically- and aesthetically-minded video is a thoughtful, sneakily provocative piece, linking interviews with victims of the fire to song lyrics and waving arms from windows to dance moves that suddenly take on apocalyptic fervor. See a short clip below (the Guardian has a longer segment).

Price, who is 46, was a member of influential British indie-pop bands Talulah Gosh and The Carousel. The video work that got her nominated is a recent development; she has been working in the medium for only the last four years.

In a Guardian article, Mark Brown rightly notes that there was “nothing to get your maiden aunt choking on her sherry” in this year’s running, but perhaps it’s better that a work more notable for its quality than its ability to shock took home the prize.

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