FELT TIP is the second in a proposed trio of new video works by Elizabeth Price that take the pulse of recent cultural history by closely studying both its surface appearances and its underlying tendencies. The central pivot of a trilogy that also includes the companion work KOHL and the forthcoming Teachers, FELT TIP traces (and graphically highlights) a fluctuating line that separates the latent from the visible, using a distinctive arrangement of vertically oriented screens to show how what happens above is regularly shaped and informed by what goes on beneath. In its subject matter, too, the piece hints at a kind of threshold moment – an intangible but widely felt ‘tipping point’ – where an imagined break from the past opens up new perspectives on the future. Price locates this transitional moment in the ferment of the 1980s, at a time where the coal-fired infrastructure that used to power the motor of the industrial economy had its thunder stolen by the glittering promise of electronic networks, and the allure of a new technocracy.
Alongside emerging ‘post-industrial’ tropes, such as a shift from material to immaterial labour, from physical objects to services and commodities, the contemporary intellectual force-field of post-modernism encouraged a similar mood of transformation: one that explicitly loosened the pre-existing ties between ‘signifier’ and ‘signified’ in favour of an associative free-play of images and signs. Price is an acute observer of these changes, noting both the vagaries of fashionable language (and technical jargon) and passing trends in the language of fashion. Alert, as she is often is, to small but significant details, she considers how a fleeting vogue for men’s neckties emblazoned with mock-digital patterns might be symptomatic of a desire to throw off restrictive old-school allegiances and, as it were, ‘get with the program’. Or, in an imagined future, where men’s ties are adopted by women; not knotted, but draped casually yet provocatively, how other rebellions and subversions are being enacted. Eloquent, insightful, and expertly fluent in its handling of eclectic material, FELT TIP is a vivid meditation on social codes, gender norms and the phenomenology of lived experience.