Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Marcus Coates: "Dawn Chorus" at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Marcus Coates: Dawn Chorus

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 behaviour of birds and humans.

Dawn Chorus is an ambitious exhibition comprising films of 17 singers that uncannily recreate birdsong in their ‘natural habitats'. The individuals are located in various situations such as an underground car-park, an osteopathic clinic and a bath-tub, the project is as much a portrait of British idiosyncrasies as it is of the natural world. The films are hung on screens in the gallery according to the position of the birds when they were recorded, creating an immersive soundscape for visitors to the exhibition.

During rigorous fieldwork 14 microphones were placed around woodland to record birds during one morning of birdsong in Northumberland. This study is the first, simultaneous, multi-microphone recording of individual birds during the dawn chorus. 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 andteachers in a staffroom transform into chiffchaffs, robins and blue tits.

Picture This has worked with Marcus Coates and birdsong expert and wildlife sound recordist Geoff Sample over a three year period to support all aspects of the project, from scientific research and field work, to sourcing and filming singers and presenting the exhibition. The project has been funded by the Wellcome Trust.

14 February - 18 March, 2007, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

A new Picture This InProfile DVD publication containing excerpts from Dawn Chorus and other works by Marcus Coates as well as an interview with the artist and a specially commissioned essay by Max Andrews is available spring 2007.

To Celebrate the opening of Dawn Chorus by Marcus Coates at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art,
Picture This and Workplace Gallery invite you to join us at Star and Shadow Bar & Cinema from
9pm until late on Tuesday 13th February.