Nathan Coley – A Place Beyond Belief

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 6: The Politics of Place

Nathan Coley is a Glaswegian artist who produces text-based work.

Image from learn.oca.ac.uk

Coley’s exhibition A Place Beyond Belief was first shown at Haunch of Venison in 2012 and included a range of photographic and sculptural work relating to the ritualised nature of protest and mourning. Included in the show was an illuminated, scaffolded text, A Place Beyond Belief, which was originally sourced from the testimony of a New Yorker describing a subway journey she made in the days following the 9/11 attacks. An edition of the work was also unveiled outside Kosova Art Gallery in Prishtina, Kosovo on the occasion of their independence from UN supervision.

A young woman sits in a New York subway carriage, a number of days after the terrorist attacks on the twin towers. It is early morning, and the city is grudgingly back at work. Like many of her fellow passengers, she is tired, emotionally fragile, confused and angry – still trying to come to terms with what has happened to her city. A Sikh man sits opposite her, wearing a bright orange turban. There is a strong tangible sense of hatred from the passengers towards the man – a feeling of raw anger and disgust. The mans eyes are averted, the commuters stares un-replied. His head is bowed, he is sobbing. The train travels on, stopping at the next station, the doors open and close, passengers get on and off. After a few stops and more torturous minutes, the man gathers his belongings and gets up to leave. Standing by the exit is a young black woman with a newly born baby. As the man approaches, he reaches into his pockets and takes out a handful of dollars. Without saying anything, he shoved the money into the folds of the baby’s clothes and exits the train. The doors close, and the remaining passengers burst into tears. At that moment, the woman realises that for New York to get past the attack, to move on and rebuild itself, it has to think anew, it has to look again. It has to get to a place beyond belief.

https://www.studionathancoley.com/works/a-place-beyond-belief-freiburg

After listening to the monologue, I question how far we have progressed. The 911 attacks were in 2001 and I don’t think we are at that healing point of moving beyond belief. There are still hate attacks, instances of homophobia, racism, xenophobia and people attacking people from another place. Listening to the dialogue almost seems idealistic and preachy, with a hint of naivety.

Coley’s Website

On Coley’s website are more details about the piece.

Details: Illuminated text on scaffolding, 6m x 7m x 3m

Installation: National Gallery of Kosovo

Nathan Coley made the piece after listening to people talk about the 9/11 attacks.

…the woman said she realised that for New York to be the beautiful place we know, it had to find a way to become a place beyond belief.”

He then made the piece in Kosovo, between new government education buildings, the Kosovo art gallery and a ruined Orthodox church.

To site the piece using a reference from the 9/11 attacks in the midst of building destroyed by the Kosovo war gives it a different meaning.

It highlights the worldwide issues that war causes, we often see acts of Terrorism and war as the immediate impact, but these effects are felt the world over. It gives the piece a whole new political stance, by comparing the situation in Kosovo to terrorism it highlights an area of the world that many don’t know about. The 9/11 attacks are known by most people in the western world but the situation in Kosovo is not so much. Why is it that we seem to care more about certain countries being attacked than others?

I think contextual information is vital for understanding political pieces like this. I do think it should be an essential ingredient. Of course, people should be able to make their own interpretations and views from a piece but it is important to understand the context that the artist used to create it.

Other work by Coley

Photo from artist’s website: https://www.studionathancoley.com/works/i-dont-have-another-land-2

‘I Dont Have Another Land’ was a piece of graffiti found on a wall in Jerusalem in the early 2000s an Coley now placed it in Charleston, East Essex, England.

The bold proclamation in the sculpture at Charleston could be interpreted as a reference to the climate emergency or the current refugee crisis. Perhaps it will encourage visitors to reflect on Charleston as a haven – a place of refuge for queer artist Duncan Grant and his friends, at a time when their identities and lifestyles were criminalised.

Nathan Coley website

Connections between works – Coley uses phrases that take on a new meaning in each place they are exhibited. They are statements that can be taken lightly, or in a very political manner once you know the context behind them.

The use of text is a common motif. He uses text as it has been directly said, he doesn’t translate or edit it. The text doesn’t always make grammatical sense. The words don’t make up a traditional sentence as there is no verb or punctuation and it is written in capital letters. The work immediately makes the viewer question where this ‘place’ is, and what belief does the artist mean?

Reflections – I am really moved and inspired by Coley’s work. On one level they are simple, it is words, illuminated on scaffolding. However, they have a deeper political meaning that makes people question world situations. There is a sense of worldwide community, that these words travel across continents but still have meaning.

References

Coley, N. (n.d.). A Place Beyond Belief. [online] Studio Nathan Coley. Available at: https://www.studionathancoley.com/works/a-place-beyond-belief [Accessed 18 Jul. 2022].

Higgins, C. (2012). Nathan Coley’s Kosovan sculpture: a beacon in bulbs. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/sep/23/nathan-coley-kosovo-sculpture-beacon [Accessed 18 Jul. 2022].

National Galleries Scotland (2019). Nathan Coley. [online] National Galleries of Scotland. Available at: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/features/nathan-coley.

Assignment 5: A Sense of Time and Place

Assignment 5 - A Sense of Time and Place, Assignments, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons)

Reflection

This assignment has been a real struggle for me. Not that I haven’t enjoyed it, but in time factors and it has dragged on for too long that I have lost my way with it. Therefore, I hope by submitting it in this state, I can return to it with fresh eyes later on.

I started with enthusiasm and really enjoyed brainstorming ideas of place and what the idea of place meant to me. I also really got into reading the different places in poetry extracts and how they each looked at the idea of place from a different lens. There have also been a lot of chances to reflect on my personal meaning of place and how perhaps with my transient life this has been quite difficult for me. I have moved around a lot, and I don’t have a place that feels like “home” and I think this is the basis of my procrastination with this assignment.

Despite this, I started some meaningful explorations of place but there are many here that I do want to return to in a short time. There are some I want to expand. I have started putting together a short film on the history of the working space over time and the research for this has been fascinating. I will return to finish this.

This short film will include music, video transitions and editing as well as showcasing examples from history about how the workplace has changed in relation to society. I know we move on to look at archives and I am hoping this will feed into this too.

Plan

I need to re-focus. I have spoken with my tutor about a plan moving forwards in terms of dates and submissions. I think I need to submit this, even though I know I have work to return to and complete and just move on.

Exercise 4: Exploring Place

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place

In project 4 I focused on my working space and desk as the location. I have decided to continue exploring ideas in this location as it is a place I want to make meaningful links to how I spend the time there and what I produce as a result of the time spent there. It is also interesting to me as I think when it comes to exploring places, my initial thoughts are of much bigger locations, so to narrow down and focus on a small space where I spend a lot of time gives me limits to work with. Also, I don’t own the home I currently live in, but I do own this desk and computer, which plays with the idea of a place being a space that means something to you.

Experiment 1 – Frottage

Froattage is a technique where you make rubbings to create impressions and lines relating to the surfaces. At first, I thought this would be a challenge as my desk is not that textured, so I wondered what I could create. However, as I started experimenting with different thicknesses of paper and a mixture of graphite pencils and soft pastels I realised there were some interesting textures after all.

The first three images are the keyboard which I use every day and have never really acknowledged what texture it can create. The keys are slightly raised which when rubbed with soft pastel on paper gives an interesting geometric shape. I really like how in some of the rubbing you get a sense of the 3D nature of the keys. I tried the white on black to continue the monochrome theme from project 4, and I like the way it turned out. However, the one that has given the best overall texture is my smaller keyboard which is done using blue soft pastel and thin everyday notepad paper.

As I was making the keyboard rubbings, I noticed the air vents on my laptop are actually very detailed and have a striking geometric texture. I sit at this desk every day and have never noticed just how aesthetic they are to look at. I’m glad I captured them using metallic graphite pencil on white paper as it really shows the pattern.

I then tried to find some other textures and wasn’t that successful as the overall desk is very flat and smooth. I was able to find some good line marking using the rubbing technique by concentrating on the edge of the desk and experimented with trying to capture a group of wires, the edge of my mug and papers on the desk.

I then recreated a life-size layout of my desk using A1 paper.

Experiment 2 – Macro Photos

This was a series of macro photos taken at different times whilst at work over a period of a few days. I then collaged them to try and recreate the objects in their relative places.

What I really like is the different perspectives, distances, and light and how they have changed over time. I find it interesting that I have focused on the keyboards.

I would like to fill the entire page with images. Even though my desk is white, I am sure it would change during the day in terms of light. It could be interesting to do a photo every hour for a day and see how it changes over time.

Experiment 3 – Text

Philips, esc, tab, caps lock, shift, ctrl, silent touch, backspace, enter, shift, insert, delete, print screen, scroll lock, pause, break, home, page up, end, page down, num lock, logi, pavilion, ryzen, radeon, vega graphics, samson

The word lock is the most common. Which is how I feel sometimes.

Experiment 4 – Sounds

This is an early idea and I am not quite sure where to go with it, but I like the idea of recording periods of time using a wave visualiser like audacity and creating something from that. You can clearly see the mouse clicks as well as a period of traffic noise.

A History of Workspaces

Lavett Ballard

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection

Lavett Ballard is an American Artist, Art historian, Curator, and Author. Ballard considers her work as a re-envisioning of the narratives belonging to people of African descent.

The collaged imagery she uses explores women’s stories, reflecting social issues within a historical context. The photo collages are used with other mixed media layered onto pieces of wooden fences. The fences add another layer of meaning and connect to her roots in South America.

Ballard’s art has been featured on the cover of Time Magazine:

Ballard views her art as reimagined visual narratives of people of African descent. Her use of imagery reflects social issues affecting primarily Black Women’s stories within a historical context. She uses collaged photos adorned with paint, oil pastels and metallic foils.

References

Ballard, L. (2017). Lavett Ballard Bio. [online] lavettballardart. Available at: https://www.lavettbeart.com/bio.
http://www.uarts.edu. (n.d.). Alum Featured on TIME Magazine Cover | University of the Arts. [online] Available at: https://www.uarts.edu/lavett-ballard-time-magazine [Accessed 7 Jun. 2022].

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé is an experimental musician and multidisciplinary artist. She produces text scores, performances and publications which explore the materiality of language and engage with the particularities of different places.

OCA website

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé was born in Morocco to French parents and later moved to London. Her work PRAELUDERE was prompted by the fact that in French, a ballad is both a song and a walk. She draws the parallel between writing and walking, using simultaneous acts of marking and reading space.

PRAELUDERE

Praeludere is a set of four verbal scores that can be activated inside or outside, sitting, standing or walking or alone with others, with or without an instrument. It is part of a body of work that explores the notion of the ballad as being somewhere between a walk and a song. Writing, drawing, seeing and walking are understood as simultaneous acts of marking and reading space.

References

Rule, D., Waeckerlé, E. and Evans, T. (2015). On Reading and Walking and Thinking… [online] research.uca.ac.uk. Available at: http://research.uca.ac.uk/3512/ [Accessed 7 Jun. 2022].
Waeckerlé, E. (2015). Praeludere. [online] research.uca.ac.uk. Available at: https://research.uca.ac.uk/4635/ [Accessed 7 Jun. 2022].
Waeckerlé, E. (2022). About – Emmanuelle Waeckerlé. [online] ewaeckerle. Available at: https://ewaeckerle.com/about [Accessed 10 May 2022].

Janet Cardiff

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection

Janet Cardiff is a Canadian artist who works with immersive multimedia, sound and audio/video walks (Miller, 2022). She often collaborates with Georges Bures Miller on the video walks to create alternative realities for the audience who listen to (and view) the constructed narrative, layered with background sounds and directions.

I spent some time looking at the different walks on their website. I selected Thought Experiments in F# Minor, described as “A labyrinthine video walk that takes you inside and outside of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A”.


The piece is genuinely captivating. It is difficult to explain in words and is something people should experience for themselves. I was left questioning reality, what it means to watch something, and how time and place interact. There is a ghost-like quality to watching a video of someone watching a location where previous interactions took place. The impact is enormous on the audience.

The same place is used in the video, but there is previous footage of past events being shown at the same time as someone walking the tour. In addition, there are more fantastical elements, such as the cat conductor. The cat also links to the idea of reality in Schrodingers cat. What is real? Is video footage real? The people in the video are both alive and also not necessarily. An image or video always shows the past. We can then meet the person, the person has aged, changed, or in some cases, they may even have passed away, but the photo still exists.

Ideas for my Own Work

I find this piece very inspirational. I wonder if I could incorporate some time shifts in my own piece about mapping digital pieces. Superimposes two days of work on top of each other.

References
Miller, J.C. & G.B. (2022). Biography. [online] Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller. Available at: https://cardiffmiller.com/biography/ [Accessed 3 Apr 2022].

Reflect, Review, and Refine

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection
  • What are the main areas or ideas for reflection from the feedback you received?
    • Something that stands out to me is how my tutor really liked the pieces I didn’t particularly think were strong. I experimented with taking photos with wires on my screen, and I wasn’t happy with how they turned out, but my tutor really thought they were powerful. This makes me want to be more experimental and take a few more risks. Post work that I perhaps don’t think is finished and get feedback on it.

      Creating any piece of work is a risk, and it exposes you to criticism, something nobody enjoys, but it is how we all learn and develop. It is something I definitely need to get better at. I could be braver with what I post here and open myself up for feedback more instead of waiting for a polished piece of work.
  • How will you develop and refine your work and ideas in response?
    • As mentioned, I want to be more creative and experimental. I need to get back into playing with ideas and not necessarily only post on here the ones that feel finished.

      One thing I could do a lot more of is using my sketchbook to develop ideas and show how I get to my finished pieces.

      Another aspect my tutor mentioned was to explain my thinking a little more.
  • Which sections of your work do you want to explore in more detail, and how might you do that?
    • I really want to explore this idea of the internet and time spent and now bring in place too. The internet is a place that perhaps doesn’t meet the conventional understanding of place, but we all curate our own little corners of the web. There isn’t a physical space but a digital space. How can I explore this?
  • What elements of your work start to reflect something about the place you chose to work in, and how might you build on that?
    • My work was based around my desk and where I work. How it is all digital and not something with a physical presence. Is this still a place?

A Reflection on Meaningful Locations

Coursework, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place, Research & Reflection

Tim Cresswell’s book describes place as a “meaningful location”.

For me, this is a difficult concept as I have moved around a lot in my life and I struggle to make meaningful connections to a particular location.

I have always felt happier when travelling and exploring, maybe because I don’t have a strong connection to anywhere else.

Even at the moment, I have a sense of wanting to move again.

I think that I may find this unit difficult but it might also give me an opportunity to explore a sense of not belonging anywhere too.

‘Place an Introduction’ by Tim Cresswell

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place

Place: An Introduction by Tim Cresswell is a geography textbook for students focusing on human geography. It looks at the everyday usage of the term ‘place’ and the debates and discussions around the definition.

This post will summarise my notes from reading the Introductory chapter.

Notes on Introduction: Defining Place

Place is one of the most important terms in geography and its study benefits from an interdisciplinary one.

Artists along with geographers grapple with the idea of place.

Not only artists, but place now has a price attached to it and is important to businesses. GIS (geographic information systems) map places and fuse with social media so our phone always knows where we are. Data from this is valuable. There are open-source maps so that corporations don’t have a monopoly on the production of place.

This virtual battle reflects longstanding struggles over place. Links to previous protest movements.

Place often has political elements.

Place is important in many aspects of life – food production, housing, holidays. Yet despite its importance, it is very difficult to define. It isn’t a specialised academic term, it is an everyday term that is familiar to us. However, even though we inherently seem to think we know what it means, it is both simple and complicated. It is different to a word like “territory” which is a specialised term.

Every day uses include:

  • “Would you like to come round to my place?” – indicates some kind of connection between a person and a building and a notion of privacy and belonging.
  • “Brisbane is a nice place” – a geographical location
  • “She put me in y place” – a sense of position in a hierarchy
  • “A place for everything and everything in its place” – an ordering of things

We often add possessions to spaces to turn a space into place.

We name spaces in the world to give them meaning. Coordinates on a map mean nothing, give it a name like a city and we get an image of what it is like.

The most straightforward definition – “a meaningful location”.

John Agnew has outlined three fundamental aspects of a place as a meaningful location.

  1. Location – they have fixed coordinates on the Earth’s surface.
  2. Locale – the material setting for social relations
  3. Sense of place. – subjective and emotional attachment

When humans invest some kind of meaning in a portion of space it becomes a place.

Goes beyond just landscape they are connections, they help us understand people.

Artists and Works Mentioned

  • Towards Re-Enchantment: Place and Its Meanings by Evans and Robson
  • Christian Marclay – installation in Gstaad Switzerland

Key Quotes

“place is perhaps the key term for interdisciplinary research in the arts, humanities and social sciences in the twenty-first century.”

“Place is a word that seems to speak for itself.”

“You discover the art through the place and the place through the art”

“Power of Place”

“transforming space into place”

Ideas

The GIS systems mentioned and how valuable this data is, links to my data collection in assignment 4. I wonder if I could incorporate some of this into a piece?

References

Cresswell, T 2014, Place: An Introduction, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, Hoboken. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [1 Apr 2022].

Place in Poetry

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 5: Developing Methods - A Sense of Time and Place

Here are three extracts which contemplate the theme of ‘place’ in different ways:

The Herefordshire Landscape by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver mist,
Farm, granges, doubled up among the hills,
And cattle grazing in the watered vales,
And cottage-chimneys smoking from the woods,
And cottage-gardens smelling everywhere,
Confused with smell of orchards.

The Lost Land by Eavan Boland

I can see the shore of Dublin Bay.
Its rocky sweep and its granite pier.
Is this, I say
How they must have seen it,
Backing out on the mailboat at twilight,
Shadows falling
On everything they had to leave?
And would love forever?
And then
I imagine myself
At the landward rail of that boat
Searching for the last sight of a hand.
I see myself
On the underworld side of that water,
The darkness coming in fast,
Saying all the names I know for a lost land:
Ireland. Absence. Daughter.

Slough by John Betjeman

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn’t fit for humans now,
There isn’t grass to graze a cow. Swarm over, Death!
Come, bombs and blow to smithereens Those air-conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans, Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Although each is about place and evoke a sens of place, they are on different levels.

The Herefordshire Landscape purely evokes a sense of place. It is atmospheric, full of visual language that evokes all the senses and gives you an idealistic view of the English countryside. It is peaceful, calm and allows you to picture yourself in the landscape living a carefree life. There are no politics in this world, it is celebrating the pure beauty of place in an escapism way.

Slough is much more political and thought-provoking and is a commentary on modern life. You get a real feeling of contempt for modernity from John Betjeman. It makes definite social comment about progress and place about how humanity with its modern interventions has made a place inhospitable. He actually wants bombs to “fall on Slough!” as “It isn’t fit for humans now”.

The Lost Land evokes a sense of place in relation to identity and exile. The poet is longing for Ireland “saying all the names I know for a lost land”. You get a feeling of desperation and loss from the poet, grief for a place and he is imagining himself looking at the shore of Dublin Bay.

I actually like all three poems in different ways. I love the pure escapism and naive joy in Browning’s poetry. It is a world I want to live in. I also like the thought-provoking nature of the second two poems. All three have given me more ideas to explore around Place.

Action Points

  • How can I explore the sensual nature of place?
  • Place is linked to politics and change – how can this be explored?
  • I would like to create a triptych of the three poems and the images they invoke.