Elizabeth Price's A Restoration is the result of a £60,000 award for the 2013 Contemporary Art Society award. Eighteen minutes long, the video reveals two years of foraging and negotiating the Arthur Evans archives in conjunction with the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums.
Arthur Evans's excavation of the ancient Cretan city of Knossos was carried out between 1900 and 1930. Immersed in a rich heritage, the Palace of Knossos was said to be home of the King Minos, and the monster, the Minotaur. The evidence uncovered by Evans acted as proof of the existence of an entirely different civilisation. Evans - inspired by the mythology - named them the Minoans.
Recently, the Ashmolean has digitalized the entire archive. Price's video imagines a fictional chorus of administrators, working to organise these records.
The video begins with an automated voice, exploring the manner by which we categorise and archive our histories. The animation on the screen shows a complex maze of fauna, artefacts, leading into building sites, mazes, architecture. It is a portrayal of the history of man and the claim to a civilised world, shown through a cascading web of intertwining images and sound.
The sprawling mass of underground paths and networks, coupled with the building intensity of the background electronic music, gives rise to an building euphoria - of humanity, the will to build, to form systems, categorise.
Followed by the crash. Images slow. The narrator grows frantic. The futility of the endless taxonomy beckons: the red typography casts primal, alluding to the apocalyptic overtones. The digital veers into an eerie solipsism, and the automated chorus become encompassing.
And then, again, the tempo ups, the images gain speed - the cycle re-starts.
The exhibition is raw and powerful. The effect is not necessarily subtle, but neither does it lack nuance. Resonant of Prices's earlier works - The Woolworth Choir of 1979, for example, showcases a similar amalgamation of text, sound and image - it strikes deep into the universal curiosity surrounding questions of human persistence.
The importance of staying 'true' to archived material is seemingly inherent to the process of categorization. And yet, A Restoration is plainly demarcated as 'a fiction'. It tells a story: a fictional interpretation of an actual record of discovery. I wonder whether this mediation between record and fiction works as an reductio ad absurdum? Our painstaking and continual attempt to coerce the world around us into systems of faithful representation, seems to - as time progresses - follow a journey of transformation, becoming bloated into myth.
Or perhaps, rather, it is hopeful: stories persist, artefacts persist, regardless of our own transient existence.