Elizabeth Price (b. 1966)
The two-screen video work, titled Sunlight, has been constructed using thousands of glass-plate slides picturing the sun. Created between 1875 and 1945, and taken on a daily basis during substantial parts of the period, these are some of the earliest scientific solar images and were discovered by the artist on a residency with Dr. Hugh Mortimer at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The slides were photographed in K-light, using so called Ca-K filters that isolate light of high temperature. The process allows us to see the effervescent surface of the sun that is otherwise too bright for human eyes. This method of early photography was used to explore the phenomenon of sunspots and their impact on magnetic technology until the mid-20th century.
During the video’s duration more than fifty years of sunlight are streamed as a continuous, evolving image of the sun. This rhythmic animation, which is shown on one of the screens, illuminates a narrative setting, which unfolds across the two projections with further images incorporating depictions of the sun. An animated ship travels across the screen, and a box of Ship-branded safety matches is presented. Matches appear both as burnt out, and occasionally in the process of burning. Hands, black and white, with strikingly yellow nail varnish clap triggering a rhythmical edit. A disembodied voice offers a more or less concise comment. The most prominent characters in this drama are images of women, in highly expressive poses that Price has taken from hosiery packaging. These women are shielding their eyes from the camera and the lights, which in the context of the film appear to be a response to the sun’s relentless glare.