Marcus Coates British, b. 1968
Dawn Chorus depicts the early morning Spring birdsong in England. Although the sounds appear to be made by birds, it is actually human voices replicating birdsong. The 14 films feature individuals sitting in their own habitats; a car, an office, a bedroom, a school staff room etc singing accurate birdsong. Birdsongs of individual birds were simultaneously recorded in a woodland in Northumberland UK. These recordings were then digitally slowed down by up to 20 times. People were asked to mimic this slowed down sound which is similar in tone to the human voice. They were filmed singing this slowed down song. The film was then sped up to the original speed of the birdsong, creating a magical transformation of the human voice into that of a bird. The installation replicates this group of individual birds and the timing of their songs on this one morning. Dawn Chorus took approximately three years to complete.
Metamorphosis through voice and sound is a state that Coates has long been exploring, and he has established a reputation for producing fascinating films in which the human voice accurately mimics complex and beautiful birdsong. Dawn Chorus is the latest and most ambitious project in this series.
Dawn Chorus uses unique digital methods to explore the relationship between birdsong and the human voice, drawing out previously unexplored similarities between the behavior of birds and humans.
Individuals are located in various situations such as an underground car-park, an osteopathic clinic and a bath-tub to recreate birdsong in their ‘natural habitats'. 14 microphones were placed around woodland to record individual birds during one morning of birdsong in Northumberland. From this multi-track recording each song was slowed down up to 16 times, then each human participant was filmed mimicking this slowed down song. Finally the resulting video footage was then speeded up, returning the bird mimicry into its ‘real' register. The speeding up of the film not only magically translates the human voice into bird song, but also emphasises unconscious gestures that appear uncannily similar to the physical behaviour of specific birds; a grandfather becomes a pheasant and teachers in a staffroom transform into chiffchaffs, robins and blue tits. The project is as much a portrait of British idiosyncrasies as it is of the natural world.
Implicit Sound, Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona, 2010
Psychopomp, Milton Keynes Gallery, UK, 2010
Manifesta7, Trento, Italy, 2008
Picture This, Bristol, UK 2007
Dawn Chorus, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK, 2007
Marcus Coates:Dawn Chorus, Elena Kane, Contemporary Magazine, May 2007
Marcus Coates - Dawn Chorus at The Baltic, www.artdaily.com 20/02/07
Being Bird, Tracey Warr, press release, Dawn Chorus, Picture This, Bristol, 2007 FOCUS:Manifesta 7, by Cathryn Drake, Trentino-South Tyrol, Italy, 2008
Marcus Coates, MAP Magazine, Autumn2008,
Marcus Coates: Review, Artvehicle 20, http://www.artvehicle.com/events94
Focus: Marcus Coates, Jonathan Griffin - Frieze Magazine, Jun-Aug 2007
Marcus Coates: Dawn Chorus: Press Release, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, 2007
Chirps with everything, by Viv Groskop, The Guardian, 25 January 2007,
Singers go wild for dawn chorus collaboration, The Journal, 3 February 2007
Bunch of Tweets, by Linda Richards in Evening Chronicle, 6 February 2007, p14 You'll have to rise early to hear a better chorus, by Tony Henderson, The Journal, 14 February 2007
Marcus Coates: Dawn Chorus, by Christopher Collett in Metro, 14 February 2007, Birdsong artist seeks chorus of approval, Evening Chronicle, 16 February 2007, Marcus Coates - Dawn Chorus at the Baltic, www.artdaily.com, 20 February 2007
Newcastle: Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, by Elena Kane,Contemporary Magazine, May 2007
Psychopomp, Milton Keynes Gallery, 2011
Between Art and Anthropology, Essay by Victoria Walters, Arndt Schneider+Christopher Wright (ed.), Berg Publishers, 2010
In Profile: Marcus Coates, Picture This - DVD