Art of change 21 – The name of your upcoming exhibition at MacGarry Gallery is ‘Near Life Experience’, what is it about? 
Marcus Coates – For so many of us, particularly in urban areas, our contact with and awareness of non human animals is increasingly limited. It is this presence of the ‘beyond human world’ within our individual and collective imagination that fascinates me, not just as a concept but as a living entity that feeds our curiosity and as a relative marker to see ourselves as the species we are.
With this in mind  I have made work for this exhibition that attempts to get nearer to non human life, that acknowledges the separation but offers us ways to emotionally and imaginatively invest in our relationships with non-human species. Either by bringing the news of nature events directly into our places of work or home with the digital ‘Nature Calendar’ or as with the plaster casts of my hands, attempts to resurrect the imagined presence of lost extinct species.

AOC21 – How did you come up with the thematic of ecology and human-animal relationship?
M.C. – As an artist it started over 25 years ago. When being in nature I became preoccupied with how I was relating to other species and the environment as a whole. How was my culture guiding this relationship, how was it inadequate to the task of fulfilling the imaginative and emotional relationship I sought but eluded me. Part of this was the constraint of language and part were the prescriptive forms of engagement that felt available to me. I understood that if you can first have nature ‘living’ in your imagination, then its presence soon influences the way you see yourself and consequently the lives of others around you including the wider environment. Art has been a way for me to explore the possibilities and potential for relationships with both imagined and physical nature.

AOC21 – What is your next project? 
M.C. – Conference for the Birds, I am creating an improvised play with 6 bird experts. We are each a different bird species and have been meeting and recording our discussions about our lives, the challenges we face and the behaviours we have in common. It’s a bit like a support group to share and speak frankly about nesting, mating, migration etc. This will be exhibited as an audio installation this summer at Cherryburn National Trust and Hatton Gallery, Newcastle.


March 2019

Credit: Marcus Coates, »Journey to the Lower World », 2004, performance, digital video, 28:13 min, arrêt sur image, courtesy of the artist

More information about Marcus Coates here

Conversation led by Alice Audouin, march 2019

Find all the articles from Impact Art News n° 7 – march 2019

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