On the occasion of the Montréal visit of artist Elizabeth Price, winner of the prestigious Turner Prize 2012, and her participation in the Pop Montréal Symposium in September, the Musée is presenting The Woolworths Choir of 1979, the video installation that earned her that major distinction awarded annually since 1984 to a British artist under fifty for the year’s best exhibition.

In Britain, the title The Woolworths Choir of 1979 summons up a tragic fire in a Woolworths store in Manchester. The insertion of the word “choir” conveys the artist’s primary intention, however: “I am interested in what happens when things move out of categories, so when social historical moves out of documentary category, but still remains social historical, and gets combined with something that is a lot more immersive and emotional, like pop music, which has an immediate physiological and emotional effect.”

The Woolworths Choir of 1979 is a spellbinding piece; the music of the sound track is so exceptional, we immediately want to see and hear the video all over again. From an analysis of the architecture of a thirteenth-century Gothic church to the reconstruction of the causes of the fire, put together entirely from archival records and images downloaded from the Internet, it is sustained by a remarkable rhythmic structure. Using multiple sequences of 1960s pop performances, the artist reconstitutes a mysterious group of choristers, gesture by gesture, into a cohesive flow. The dexterity of the collage work, gathering documents of different styles and genres into a dramatic whole, attests to Price’s talent and her strong command of the history of both narrative and experimental film. The hypnotic effect of the chorus of snapping fingers and clapping hands, combined with the recurring motif of a particular flick of the wrist, and her use of rhythm and texture, in general, create a brilliantly constructed story.

Presented in collaboration with Pop Montréal.

Curated by: Louise Simard