For Art Basel’s Feature section GRIMM presents KOHL, a new video installation by British Turner Prize-winning artist Elizabeth Price (1966). KOHL, commissioned by the Walker Art Center to be shown in Minneapolis in the winter of 2018, premiers at Art Basel.
KOHL explores the visual similarities and differences between the materials of ink and coal, to construct a narrative in the genre of the ghost story. In this context, ink is established as a surrogate for coal - a kind of spectral double or ghostly shadow - which is a metaphor for the vast, dense and still expanding legal, administrative, medical and scientific body of material generated by industrial coal extraction.
A further relationship to the liquid, black make-up ‘kohl’ will be established by considering residues of coal on or inside the body - most particularly the bodies of miners. In Émile Zola’s novel Germinal (1884) coal-blackened bodies signal the threat of a ‘black, avenging host’ as miners emerge from the bowels of the earth to claim their rights. In KOHL the coal/ink marked body also indicates protest, as well as mourning. Ink stained feet and hands (made in Motion-Caption CGI) move from screen to screen, awakening them as repositories of knowledge or memory, and triggering the four different textual ‘voices’ that together convey the story.
KOHL is a synched four-channel video of approximately 10 minutes duration. Each channel (16:9 ratio) is projected in portrait format, presented together to make a composite projection of landscape format, with a total projection size of roughly 200 x 450 cm.
The four separate projections are established within the video as subterranean spaces, as storage silos or deep wells. At points they will also stand-in for different geographic locations and mine shafts; varying archives or repositories; caches within a computer file system as well as the necrotic cavities of ‘black-lung’, that yield the ‘inky spit’ that is its symptom.
With KOHL, Price explores new techniques that push her own boundaries and bring her work to a new level. It features the commission of a new dedicated typeface for all graphics; motion captured CGI (real body movements are scanned to create the action for a digital body model); live action footage and extant archival photography (c.1979 - 1990, from the British Coal Mining museum).