EXHIBITIONS

Nathan Coley – Knowledge, Kindliness and Courage

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Nathan Coley – Knowledge, Kindliness and Courage

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23 Nov, 2012 to 20 Jan, 2013

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The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a major solo exhibition with British artist Nathan Coley, his first in North America. Comprising an exhibition across all gallery spaces and an off-site presentation, existing pieces are presented alongside Unnamed (2012), a major new commission.

Coley’s practice revolves around investigations into the social aspects of our built environment, working across a diverse range of media. Interested in public space, the artist explores how architecture comes to be invested — and reinvested — with meaning, and how through the competing practices of place these claims and significations come into conflict.

For Coley, buildings are empty vessels given significance by their social history: by the communities that populate them. He is interested in these politics, insofar as they put a political demand on place in the current pluralist climate of enforced equality. Fiona Bradley comments, ‘The gap between the city as built and as experienced, as it exists in the world and in the mind and memory, resonates throughout Nathan Coley’s practice … [he] conjures cities, metaphorically dismantling them.’

Unnamed forms the centerpiece to the exhibition, developing on from In Memory (2010) a simple enclosure formed by poured concrete surrounding a tended graveyard with headstones and planting commissioned for Jupiter Artland in Scotland. Just as previous works have looked at how buildings embody systems of belief — specifically places of worship — at the Contemporary Art Gallery Unnamed develops this thematic questioning by using headstones, which collectively reveal the differing stories relating to the patterns of history, immigration and indigenous peoples. Gathered throughout the gallery supported on stout wooden batons, the seemingly informal, provisional nature of their installation creates a sense of the sculptures being in transit, of yet to find a home, suggestive of a dislocation from their actual site, temporarily in limbo. The silence of these ‘ready-made’ objects produces a powerful presence leaving us to ask where they have come from and how they got here. With names erased the forms touch on notions concerning how we mark lives that are passed and raise the issue of morality in using these loaded objects in such a way.

Coley’s practice reveals that claims to public space in postmodern society (one marked not by national cohesion, but fragmentation, trans-nationalism, pluralism) are made by groups of people who have different ideas on how it should be used; the structures they erect manifest these desires, values and beliefs. Works such as 28.10.11. or 18.10.11. (both 2012) from an ongoing group of works titled The Honour Series picturing protests taken at various public marches and demonstrations throughout the world clearly engage such issues.

Presented off-site We Must Cultivate Our Garden (2006) a large scale illuminated text work held aloft on a scaffolding structure, evokes just such concerns. Taken from the last line of Candide by Voltaire, the statement is powerful and complex. The use of the plural ‘we’ is inclusive, conveying the sense that a joint effort is necessary for an endeavour to have any effect. The imperative ‘must’ lends an active, almost dictatorial tone. The words ‘cultivate’ and ‘garden’ are loaded with metaphorical weight: we can cultivate our minds, our souls, our relationships as well as the soil. Our ‘garden’ might constitute a house, a spirit, a child or a patch of land. In some ways it can be considered a call to arms, suggestive that a hunger for knowledge and understanding can be satiated through investigation and hard work rather than reliance on fate, tenuous beliefs or social standing. Coley is interested in the idea that the sentence is open to multiple forms of translation and interpretation, this element of ambiguity crucial whereby the onus is placed on the viewer to locate a meaning which interests them. Indeed, through his work, the artist reveals the unconscious of the architecture and cityscapes he interrogates, investigating social as much as physical constructions. Or as Coley says, ‘It’s in your imagination.’

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Artists/Participants:
Nathan Coley  



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Related Learning

Artist Nathan Coley discusses his exhibition Knowledge, Kindliness and Courage at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver and the off-site work We Must Cultivate Our Garden, November 23, 2012 to January 20, 2013. Video by Brian Lye.

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Video | Nathan Coley


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Related Learning

Artist Liz Magor explored her current interests focusing on her experience with re-enactors, who perform a cycle of repetition in their quest to be affiliated with a larger group. Magor is an Associate Professor in Visual Arts at Emily Carr University, her sculptural work involves ordinary or familiar objects often refashioned. She has shown internationally at Documenta and at the Venice Biennale.

This series invites cultural and critical producers to present thoughts and ideas rooted in their own interests and practices, and invites audiences to join in the conversations that will explore relevant contemporary issues, theories, ideas and culture.

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Liz Magor: Desire of the Individual


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Related Learning

Am Johal is a community developer who works at SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement having previously worked on the Vancouver Agreement in urban economic and social development, as a political advisor, in human rights and as a freelance journalist with Inter Press Service. He was the cofounder of UBC’s Humanities 101 program and was Chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition. He is on the Steering Committee of SFU’s Centre for Dialogue, is a member of the Vancouver City Planning Commission and a board member with the Vancity Community Foundation. He is a part-time doctoral student in Media Philosophy at European Graduate School in Switzerland. In his talk he considers how his work is affected by the critical engagement of the art work on display at the CAG.

This series invites cultural and critical producers to present thoughts and ideas rooted in their own interests and practices, and invites audiences to join in the conversations that will explore relevant contemporary issues, theories, ideas and culture.

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Am Johal: The Politics of Community


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Related Learning

Bill Pechet is a Lecturer in Practice in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at UBC, with a special concern for the emerging manners of contemporary urban social practice. He also works independently an array of projects from strategic urban planning studies through to residential and retail design, cemeteries, set design, and art-in-public-places installations. Along with Stephanie Robb, Bill represented Canada in the 2006 Venice Biennale of Architecture with a witty critique of leisure culture called SweaterLodge.

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Bill Pechet: The Manners of Social Practises


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Related Learning

Prompted by the exhibition of work by Nathan Coley, artist Jin-me Yoon examined questions concerning identity, place and subjectivity in an accelerated globalized era in relation to her practice. These include the consequences for reconsidering power and ideas of progress, and the means for slowing down signification and extending temporality. What are the aesthetic, social and political implications of absence and the void as a paradoxical space ‘full’ with presence and necessary doubt?

Jin-me Yoon is a Professor of Visual Studies at Simon Fraser University and represented by Catriona Jeffries Gallery.

This series invites cultural and critical producers to present thoughts and ideas rooted in their own interests and practices, and invites audiences to join in the conversations that will explore relevant contemporary issues, theories, ideas and culture.

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Jin-me Yoon: The Void and Temporality


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In CAG Shop

$40.00

Published:
144 pages

This publication is the first artist's substantial monograph, covering the past 10 ten years. Born in 1967 in Glasgow, Nathan Coley is interested in the idea of “public” space, and his practice explores the ways in which architecture becomes invested—and reinvested—with meaning. Across a range of media Coley investigates what the built environment reveals about the people it surrounds and how the social and individual response to it is in turn culturally conditioned. Using the readymade as a means to take from and re-place in the world, Coley addresses the ritual forms we use to articulate our beliefs—from hand-held placards and erected signs to religious sanctuaries. Whether highlighting in illuminated letters the testimony of a New Yorker recalling the World Trade Center attacks or erasing the names of the dead from their gravestones, his work frequently turns the specific into the general, thereby testing its function as a form of social representation; simply, does this aphorism, this gravestone, this building, speak on my behalf?

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Nathan Coley - A Place Beyond Belief


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