WELCOME! Elizabeth Price and the Life of Objects

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The videos of Turner Prize-winning British artist, Elizabeth Price (b.1966), explore the libidinal surges and collapses of our attachments to objects in ways that conjure a history of artists’ exploration of consumer objects and commodity fetishism stretching from Dada, Surrealism and the negative anthropology of Georges Bataille, through postwar art and theory, including the work of Dara Birnbaum, Gretchen Bender and Jean Baudrillard. This essay argues that Price’s work provides the means to contextualize and challenge some of the assumptions of more recent object-theory, as these have been taken up within the art world. Instead a distinctive strategy is identified, termed ‘empathy with the commodity’, linking the work of artists and theorists from the 1930s, through the 1970s and ’80s, to Price’s work in the present. The ambivalence of this formation describes simultaneously a sympathetic longing to make the object ‘live’, with a search for escape from the bind of object-identification in spectacular destruction and waste.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-593
JournalArt History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2019


  • Elizabeth Price
  • Video Art
  • Object theory


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