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By exploring the lived realities of people, animals and nature, Marcus Coates attempts to understand how we relate to each other and the world around us. He re-enacts states of being - a process of radical empathy - to question what it means to be alive now, our history and future. His motivation is to create, examine and critique relational tools. Sometimes, these explorations move beyond the limits of conventional language. Coates’ approach is often functional with a social and ecological impact in mind. He works collaboratively, bringing in members of the public, individuals, organisations and institutions, as well as experts from a wide range of disciplines. These include: anthropologists, ornithologists, wildlife sound recordists, choreographers, politicians, psychiatrists, palliative care consultants, musicians and primatologists. Together with Coates, they seek answers to questions about humanity, the natural world and the cross overs between them. He exposes the disconnects within us and the societies we have created. New ways of relating are proposed and put into practice.

 

The Directors (2022) is a series of five films in which Coates performs the consciousness of individuals who have lived experiences of psychosis. Each subject directs Coates as he conveys their struggle with fear, hallucinations or paranoia and how these symptoms compel them to behave. Coates’ approach is a compassionate attempt to challenge stigma around mental health disorders. In Nature Calendar, Coates worked with scientists to collate predicted events in the natural world, creating a simple poetic sentence for each day. It is an evolving calendar specific to world regions. Its first iteration was displayed in 2017 for an urban audience in Utrecht station, Holland, for example, on this day: Wild bluebells are in flower in the woods or Young moles are being born. The work encourages a relationship with the natural world that Coates believes is necessary for a sustainable planet. It uses imagination as a place for these connections to prosper. Coates’ Apology to the Great Auk (2017) took place on Fogo Island, Canada where the now extinct bird once lived. In the nineteenth century, millions of great auks were hunted out of existence. Coates, in collaboration with residents of the island and its mayor, made a poignant, public apology for this as well as a promise of protection to existing species of auk.

 

Solo exhibitions include The Directors, Artangel, London, UK (2022); The Animal That Therefore I Am, OCAT Institute, Beijing, China (2020); The Last of Its Kind, Workplace Gallery, London, UK (2018); Dawn Chorus, Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain (2015); The Trip, Serpentine Gallery, London, UK (2010); Psychopomp, Milton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes, UK (2010); Marcus Coates, Kunsthalle Zurich, Switzerland (2009). Coates was nominated for the 4th Plinth Commission in 2014 and was the recipient of a Paul Hamyln Award in 2008. In 2009 he won the first Daiwa Art Prize.

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