Marcus Coates, Dawn Chorus, 2007
Here’s a journal covering the research and fieldwork to develop to final work… including making recordings of the dawn chorus. http://www.wildsong.co.uk/mcdc/DCFieldWork.html
“Coates will go to extreme lengths to get what he wants. For Dawn Chorus, he spent a week camping with a wildlife sound recordist, Geoff Sample. The pair lived in a motorhome in Northumberland, getting up at 3am to activate a 24-track digital recorder. They collected 576 hours of birdsong in all – robins, whitethroats, wrens, blackbirds, songthrushes, yellowhammers, greenfinches.” The Guardian, January 2007
Dawn Chorus is an ambitious exhibition comprising films of 19 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.
Sukhdev Sandhu, Night Haunts: A nocturnal journal through 2006
In this contemporary nocturnal journal, Sandhu prospects in the London night with the people who drive its pulse, from night cleaners to praying nuns, security guards to the Samaritans. In each episode, Sandhu reflects on the nature of the urban night. Has night life been corroded by light and entertainment? What are the invisible forces that pulse through the sleeping city? Is real darkness possible any more?
An ArtAngel Interacton project
The 4am Project
Creative Director Karen Strunks
The aim of the 4amproject is to gather a collection of photos from around the world at the magical time of 4am. Everyone can take part and join in! All you need is a camera. We want to see what you see at that moment in time on that one day. What’s your view at 4am?
Photo stream from 4am project…
(And I missed taking part on 24th April! shame!…)
And currently on at Whitechapel Gallery…
Ergin Çavuşoğlu’s work refers to Andy Warhol’s film Empire, which consists of a single eight hour shot of the Empire State Building. Filmed in his native Turkey, this video captures the transition from day to night of an apartment block that also houses a mosque.
After doing a trial in West Bromwich with the Longhouse bursary artists and Scott Farlow, I revised my ideas a little about the event I wanted to create. Firstly, even though the dawn was spectacular, and we had talked about the idea of applauding, at the time it felt too forced, and also unnecessary. If I was interested in the applause as a collective action, then in fact just being together, discussing observations as a group and sharing food was enough. It would be interesting to see if this changes when there’s a larger group.
The setting – indoors, and high up with a view – was also on trial. I decided it was important to have a good view from high up to be able to see the sky and horizon properly, and to help in creating a sense of occasion. Indoors made sense for December, the discomfort of being outdoors in low temperature would have detracted, but it felt important to sense the outdoors as much as possible – being able to hear sounds, and feel the air. I did ask about access to the roof, but it was out of the question as Premier Inn, who lease the building said they did not lease the roof and public access would anyway not be permitted.
Going forward, finding a tall building, which I could throw open to a public audience in the early hours of the morning, was tricky. I did quite a bit of research on multi-storey car parks… partly inspired by Hannah Barry gallery in Peckham which stages the Bold Tendencies sculpture exhibition on the top floor of Peckham Multistorey Car Park. I was aware that multi-storey car parks are often designed for public access to the roof, whereas most tall buildings aren’t and tend to have elements that would make public access unacceptable e.g. air conditioning / lift equipment and similar. Also, Multi-storey car parks are pretty durable and hard to damage… and if there aren’t cars there as it’s after hours, then there is little of value in the building (perhaps?). Also, it goes without saying that in a terrorism-aware climate then a request to gather on a rooftop is suspect! Particularly when the people attending will be at least partly drawn from open invitation.
I was introduced to Coin Street Community Builders – and the roof terrace of the Coin Street Community Centre (image above). And while there was enthusiasm for the event, and an opportunity to draw on existing networks of people connected to the centre, the location, next to residential flats meant that there was a restriction on use of the terrace that covered not only late nights but also early morning times. While Scott encouraged me to investigate further – and see if I could gain support from the nearby residents – I looked into a further venue option, and found it really attractive… and able to be amenable to my needs.
Provided the event is properly invigilated, Hackney Historic Buildings Trust are happy to have a group event on the roof of St Augustine’s Tower which has a 360 degree panorama across east London, as the tower is at Hackney Central. I was also particularly interested in the event taking place in an urban district and also in a place that has some sense of being a distinct neighbourhood – which I believe Hackney does.
In December 2010 I ran a pilot event in West Bromwich with Scott Farlow and the other bursary artists. This helped shape my plans for a public event substantially.
For the pilot, I timed the event by the phases of dawn twilight, of which there are three: Astronomical twilight, Nautical twilight, Civil twilight. (Twilight definitions – for dawn or dusk)
We met at 5:45am when it was still dark, walked around central West Bromwich together, and then returned to the Premier Inn and a top floor room with high windows forming an L-shape giving a views over almost an 180 panorama, looking out east towards Birmingham.
Having settled in the room around 6:20am we kept the lights off and the windows tilted open, to get as much of a sense of the outdoors as possible. As we would be spending the next 2 hours watching it made sense not to stay outside at temperatures around zero. I acted as host and talked about the stages of twilight, their timings, the way the are defined in terms of level of light. I also made tea and we had some shared food as we watched. We talked mostly about our observations of the changes outside…in the light, the sky, and in the activity around us in the city. Sunrise was at 7.54am and we stayed watching until around 8:30am.
I will post 16 images spanning the observation period, and go on to discuss my findings from the pilot in a separate blog post.
I make live participatory work, often in public spaces, and I am interested in creating ‘open rituals’ that invite people to take part in an action that is both individual and communal. I studied Fine Art, and ended up making entirely Live Art during my degree, but continuing my practice after art school I found myself more influenced by ‘socially engaged’ and relational art practice. My blogspot has more of an archive of my practice: natashavicars.blogspot.com
This was my initial proposal for Longhouse: City Dawning would see a group gather outdoors at dawn and welcome the sunrise with applause. While this one action is my vision for the project, it is surrounded by broader interests; the experience of getting up to see daybreak, and a question of what could be individual and communal responses to that. I am interested in the early hours of the day as a time when an individual has a different sense of inhabiting the city he/she lives in – with fewer people around maybe having more sense of freedom or even ownership of the space. I am also interested in Romantic art and see dawn as a time when a person can strongly experience a sense of wonder at nature within an urban environment.
Through gathering. Through applauding. These are simple ways in which choose to act together – and be a community. What would it be like to see the start of a new day together, in this fashion? And what would it be like to experience the place you live in at a time you never normally see it? City Dawning is themed around connections between people – and a group occupation of space.
Aside from the interest in the early hours of the day, I was also influenced by an experience I had in Brazil, in which I was sat out on the beach early one evening and heard applause down the other end of the sands. I assumed that some performance over there must have just finished, and looked to see what was going on, I couldn’t make anything out in particular… but I realised that the applause was spreading up the beach. It was busy with people, and as the clapping, (as well as loud whistling and cheers!) started happening closer to me I realised that every-one was turning to the horizon and applauding the sunset.
It was a truly spectacular sunset, and was framed by the striking ‘sugar loaf’ shaped peaks around the bay in Rio. But I was struck by the act as a group response… not a quiet romantic contemplation as a couple, but an instinct to acknowledge the moment by joining as a group.