Workplace Gallery is delighted to present our fourth solo exhibition at our gallery in Gateshead of new work by Marcus Coates. For this exhibition, Coates presents three new works that set out the scope of a wider enquiry. Central to this is the re-animation of our intersubjectivity with natural kinds.
The Sounds of Others, 2014 is an audiovisual installation, a comparative study of diverse animal vocalisation including humans. These sounds range from blue whale calls to insect stridulations. The voice of a species is slowed down or sped up which transforms its pitch and duration. Large custom built LED displays show the name of the animal and the changing speed of its sound. The blue whale starts at normal speed and then increases to 115x this speed until it sounds very similar to the next species played at normal speed –a spotted redshank (bird), which in turn speeds up to sound similar to a bush cricket, which slowed down sounds like a common tree frog and so on. The installation moves from one species to another finding points of resemblance between their songs and calls, drawing a relative line of connection between 24 species. For Coates, this represents a new taxonomy based on sound, where a gibbon is closely related to a canary and a shrew to a curlew. He suggests that revealing and occupying many more points of identification are possible and even advisable, as our physical capacity (sensory range), as well as our cultural means for knowing and relating to the non-human world, are limited.
Relatives (agitated water) 1997-2015 is a large scale photograph. An image of flat water taken from above has formed ripples and patterns caused by the disturbance of its surface. The print is high contrast, creating extreme tonal values suggesting an appearance of solidity to reveal forms, that with increasing scrutiny appear like human faces, not unlike cartoons or early gothic contortions. The anthropomorphic gaze suggests that this frozen moment exposes an inhabited entity. As we recognise our compulsion to see our human likeness in the inanimate, we are arguing with rationalism. We might not call these illusions our relatives or spirits, but at some level this recognition invites belief. The photograph is a celebration of this, a re-animation and investment in the life of an inanimate natural kind.In Questions & Answers2015, a single channel HD video work. We see Coates running a weeklong workshop for 6 members of the public. The aim is to learn skills that will enable the group to find insight or even answer the questions we all struggle with, the sort of questions we carry around with us and never seem to get answered. The process involves committing oneself to inhabiting a world that makes itself in your imagination, in an attempt to acquire information that you can rationally use to pragmatic ends. The group consult a variety of ‘clients’ including people they approach on the street, community members and the Mayor’s office, City Hall, London.