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Artist-Curator Stages a Life Along a Horizontal Line

An expansive curatorial effort by Elizabeth Price is an intellectual examination of life running along a prostrate spine or glacial surface.

The Final Project, 1991–92, Jo Spence. Courtesy the Estate of Jo Spence and Richard Saltoun Gallery © The Estate of Jo Spence

The dominant force driving Elizabeth Price's first-time curation effort is the concept of the line, specifically, the horizontal one. This concept runs like a clothesline throughout the artist’s vision of stages of human behavior and movement and subtlety supports and hangs above each of the pieces in the poetically-titled IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY exhibit. Consisting of both static installations, videos, and black-and-white photography, the rousing group show takes an extra bit of time playing with the image of man or woman lying down, sometimes fixed in a prostrate position.


In total, the curated show includes over 60 artists, including Constantin Brancusi, Edward Onslow Ford, Henry Fuseli, Andy Warhol, and Francesca Woodman. The ability to bring together such high-caliber creative minds was a dream come true for Price, who was the winner of the Turner Prize in 2012.

Still from Sleep, 1963, Andy Warhol, The Andy Warhol Museum © 2016 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a museum of Carnegie Institute

From The Sleepers series, 2006, Yto Barrada. Courtesy Pace Gallery, London; Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg, Beirut; and Galerie Polaris, Paris © Yto Barrada 2016

The exhibit shines in its transitional journey, following four major human life movements: sleeping, working, mourning, and dancing. While "Sleeping" and "Working" seem to meld into one another, the majority of the exhibit art flows along the linear theme, with one meticulous piece connected to the next according to Prince's directional leanings.

Conduit art pieces connect different artworks, from the stages of sleeping to working, while keeping the horizontal imagery consistent. Within both are perceived understandings of perspective: there is a photograph of a perfectly stacked pile of papers, an image that may look familiar to so many office jobs, placed along a collage of images displaying eerily geometric glaciers and place-marker signs from the cubicle-free Arctic.

Still from The Serpentine Dance, 1899, The Lumière Brothers. Courtesy Institut Lumière, © Institut Lumière

Meat Joy, 1964, Carolee Schneemann. Courtesy of the artist, Hales London, P.P.O.W New York, and Electronic Arts Intermix © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016. Photo: Robert McElroy

Price herself works in the mediums of video and installation art. While curating IN A DREAM YOU SAW… the artist used the opportunity to meditate on the purpose of an art exhibit and to play with the spatial potential of the gallery:

“The opportunity to create an exhibition of other artists’ work is one that comes rarely to artists themselves. I have approached it with an artist’s methods, but also as a (solitary) viewer of art exhibitions over many years. For me exhibitions are a place for inventing: for encountering objects, images and events, in all their sensual and material complexity and imagining things about them why they were made, and what could they mean. In creating this exhibition I have reflected upon some genealogies of art’s forms, as well as the social histories that have generated them, but above all, I have sought to explore the license that art gives us to make our own sense of it.”


Notting Hill Carnival, 1976, Christopher Steele-Perkins. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre London © Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Photos

Je Tends les Bras (I Extend My Arms), 1931, Claude Cahun. Courtesy Jersey Heritage Trust © Jersey Heritage

Snowdrift, 1901, Edward Onslow Ford. Courtesy National Museums Liverpool, Lady Lever Art Gallery

Nécessaire, 1968, Giulio Paolini. Courtesy Lisson Gallery © Giulio Paolini

After "Working" is “Mourning,” which features a grand plastic sepulcher statue, Effigy of Eleanor Aquitaine. It is joined by several photographs of mourners.

“Dancing” the last section of the exhibit, closing out the show on a slightly brighter note—if not still filled with the artist’s own metaphorical concepts, with displays of rotation, movement, and a little life. Follow the rest of the line through IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY in the images below:

Boundary Split, 1968, Dennis Oppenheim. Courtesy Dennis Oppenheim Estate © Dennis Oppenheim 2016

Venice Kimono, 2012, Anthea Hamilton, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist

Nomad, 2002, Gavin Turk. Courtesy the artist and David Roberts Collection, London © the artist. Photograph by Stephen White

Untitled, 1976–78, Brian Alterio, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist

Reaper (d), 1949, Richard Hamilton. Courtesy UCL Art Museum, University College London. © R. Hamilton. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2016

Sleeping Pilgrim, Levoca, Slovakia (from the series Pilgrims), 1968, Marketa Luskacova, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © Marketa Luskacova

The Dream of Orpheus (Numerous Animals with Orpheus), Late 16th Century, Roelandt Savery. Courtesy Hackney Museum

The exhibit IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY is part of the Hayward Touring collections and currently shows at the University of Manchester’s Whitworth galleries until October 30, 2016. See more information on the exhibit here.


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