In 2012, Bradford-born artist Elizabeth Price won the Turner Prize for her haunting film installation presented at BALTIC in Newcastle, featuring archival footage from a fire at the Manchester branch of the Woolworth’s department store, opposite Piccadilly Gardens, in 1979. 500 customers and staff were inside the six-storey building at the time, 10 of whom died and many more were seriously injured.
This autumn, the film travels to Manchester for the first time as part of the most extensive exhibition of Price’s work to date, presented at the Whitworth. The show will also comprise of numerous other new and acclaimed pieces by the artist – including the debut of the third part of her major video trilogy, ‘SLOW DANS’ (2018-9), co-commissioned by the Whitworth and Artangel.
Framed around a fictional past, an imagined future, and a parallel present, the large-scale projection-installation navigates recent social and political histories. The span the systematic abandonment of the UK coal mines during the 1970/80s (‘KOHL’) through to a vision of how demographic and technological revolutions occurring in the workplace will lead to the office tie being adopted as a form of feminist drag (‘FELT TIPS’). The most recent installment, ‘THE TEACHERS’, will explore the corporatisation of education through a satirical tale in which the members of certain professions contract a form of elective muteness and exchange speech for a series of absurd and profane rituals.
As in ‘The Woolworths Choir of 1979’ (2012), which painstakingly combined footage of the fire with YouTube clips of 1960s female pop groups and details of medieval choral architecture to create a discordant, elegiac mix of social history and fantasy; ‘SLOW DANS’ will hold up a similarly strange yet deeply-resonant mirror to our world.
As well as film, the exhibition will include sculpture and photography by Price, as well as photographs by Albert Walker from the main period of mine abandonment in the UK, on loan from the National Coal Mining Museum.