Marcus Coates: 185x49x26cm: WORKPLACE GATESHEAD

1 December 2012 - 19 January 2013

Coates' new installation All the Grey Animals, 2012 comprises of over 80 cuboid forms each representing an animal that has been defined by its greyness. From a sixteen foot newborn Grey Whale to a one inch Grey Dagger Moth this amassed grouping of animals as objects is a brutal rendering of a vast diversity. Coates presents such a pragmatic and rational representation as a crass abstraction, a generalisation that challenges the viewer to extract an essence of a being from a human-centric definition.


In parallel to All the Grey Animals is the new sculpture Marcus Coates, White British, 185x49x26cm, 2012 in which Coates turns this reductive strategy on himself, to be represented by a prosaic counterpart - a tall, thin, white box. Turtle Mountain, 2012 was filmed near the summit of this mountain on the fringes of the Rocky Mountain range in Southern Alberta, Canada. With The Rockies in the distance and overlooking Oldman River a naked man enacts a ritual with the setting sun whilst another films him; both are played by Marcus Coates. Seemingly concerned with a 'spiritual alignment' the performer of the ritual is autocratic and impatient, fixated on the correct way to conjure this elusive experience. The clichéd procedures and terminologies of this spiritual ritual reveal a narcissistic human tendency to commodify the most basic experience.


The Trip, 2011 is a fixed camera single channel video work that was created as part of the Serpentine Gallery's project Skills Exchange: Urban Transformation and the Politics of Care. Marcus Coates worked with outpatients at St. John's Hospice, London for 2 years from 2009. Wondering what skills and reflections on the world an artist might offer to people in the final stages of their lives, Coates began his project with the question, 'What can I do for you?' Through the ensuing conversations between Coates and his collaborators at the Hospice, many proposals emerged. One of these requests, made by the late Alex H. - the name by which he asked to be referred, was realised by the artist in 2010. Coates was given precise instructions for the trip he was to undertake on Alex's behalf. He was to travel to the Amazon Rainforest and to ask the people he encountered there a set of questions. He decided not to film or photograph the experience, but rather to rely on his own memories, impressions and the stories he collected, to enrich Alex's vision of this already imagined trip. This poignant and moving dialogue between Marcus Coates and Alex H. documents their conversations both before
and directly after this journey.