Monday, 17 October 2016

Elizabeth Price Curates: In A Dream You Saw A Way To Survive And You Were Full Of Joy

"I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering, which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining. We do not remember. We rewrite memory much as history is rewritten. How can one remember thirst?" Chris Marker

Price says that in curating this exhibition she wanted to bring together objects that will give us a sense of the  social politics of today. The main gallery spaces of The Whitworth are divided into Sleeping, Working, Mourning and Dancing. I approached these rooms with a random wandering on my first walk around and then in a more ordered fashion on subsequent viewings but I don't think it really matters, few of the works are ambiguous in their category.

Sleeping: There is an eeriness to this section, images and sculpture of figures reclining, out cold, peaceful and less so. All the different ways in which we spend time with our eyes closed, in and out of awareness. A small 19th Century Inro is beautiful and delicate. According to the exhibition guide it depicts a figure dreaming an entire life in a short time, and reminds me of one of the things I find most unsettling about sleep, the nano-second dream in which hours of activity take place and whole stories are played out during the momentary head-droop of the very tired.

Yamada Jokasai, Inro,
figure of Rosei Lying on Bed with Face Covered, 19th Century

Working and Mourning: I am drawn to three images from these two sections of the exhibition. Goldblatts butchered horse, Fassbinders depiction of the desperate last contact with the deceased as a man grapples with his dead brother running in an endless loop and self-commissioned banners for Roman Emperor Maximillion I by Burkmair (Maximillion died before The Triumphal Procession could be completed and his achievements carved onto the banners). Together these images speak of a desire to live, gripping on with our fingernails. Depictions of searching for ways to be remembered, our only chance at immortality, provide the overarching sentiment of this collection.

David Goldblatt, Butchering a coal merchants horse for the sale of its meat 
after it had been condemned and shot by a municipal health inspector, 
Tladi, Soweto, 1972

     Rainer Werner Fassbinder, The American Soldier, 1970

Hans Burkmair, The Triumph Of The Emperor Maximilian I, c.1516-19

It all ends with  Dancing: the twirling of the Lumiere brothers Dance serpentine (1876) and disco of Anthea Hamiltons Venice Kimono (2012). On the whole the four sections of the exhibition bleed together, in some places more successfully than others. The transition between Mourning and Dancing work particularly well. Horizontal figures (a theme running through the exhibition which I didn't pick up on as much as the info suggested I should) gives way to the unruly, noisy, strange and playful. The celebration after the mourning, like being released from earthly gravity.

The exhibition shows a collection of larger issues evoked by the briefest of snapshots and tiny fragments of every day occurrences. Price has collected them in such a way that together they are enriched by a sense of the mystical and otherworldly.
Anthea Hamilton, Venice Kimono, 2012

Corinna Spencer

Elizabeth Price Curates
In A Dream You Saw A Way To Survive And You Were Full Of Joy
30 June - 30 October 2016
The Whitworth
The University Of Manchester
Oxford Road
M15 6ER

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