Coley (United Kingdom)
4 September - 5 October, 2002
curated by Juliana Engberg for SCAPE Urban Arts Biennial
Like a stage-prop from a silent western Nathan Coley's
Black Maria perches on top of the Physics Room. Its unlikely form
makes a wonderous addition to the Christchurch skyline, a playfully
dark mirror carrying ideas from other places and reflecting the
idiosyncratic histories that make up the cityscape.
Exploring notions of the frontier, the facade and location, The
Black Maria brings a distinctive icon of the Western to the urban
centre of Christchurch. Scottish artist Nathan Coley will present
The Black Maria as a part of the SCAPE Biennial. Coley's saloon
stage-set is located high on the roof of the Physics Room building
and towers over the intersection of Christchurch's High and Tuam
Streets. It offers a vision of the frontier loaded with theatrical
potential. This new addition to the city skyline brings yet another
facade to a streetscape already loaded with architectural fragments
which evoke a nostalgia for another place. The
Black Maria hovers above the pediments of the surrounding buildings.
Stained black, with its supporting scaffolding mechanism clearly
visible, The Black Maria absorbs from its surrounds and offers back
an elegaic and open ended proposition.
Coley's project takes both its title and capacity to rotate in
pursuit of the sun from the first film studio to be built, Thomas
Edison's Black Maria of 1893. In choosing to restage the 'saloon'
Coley draws on the nostaglic silent westerns of the 1930's, where
the romance and drama of a frontier conquered and now the subject
of myth is played out on the screen in flickering black and white.
Inside the Physics Room gallery Coley has constructed a second
structure and further architectural proposition, a prop for his
series of digital prints Places Where Something Has Happened.
Nathan Coley is interested in the way the values of a society are
reflected in its built environment. As the stage upon which our
lives unfold how does the architecture we are surrounded by determine
our sense of what is possible? Throughout his practice Coley has
investigated the way that constructed spaces add meaning to our
cultural identity. His work is concerned with revealing the unwritten
codes of convention that surround
physical structures. In a previous project he has hand-made, in
view of a visiting public, perfectly scaled cardboard models of
161 places of worship in central Birmingham, accumulating and eventually
recycling the cardboard. Throughout the month of September the Physics
Room hosted Nathan Coley's Christchurch projects The Black Maria
and Places Where Something Has Happened.
SCAPE - The Art and Industry Biennial 2002
A Christchurch based festival event located in a range
of galleries and public sites, the Art
and Industry Biennial has become one of the premier arts events
in the year's calendar. Set up to provide a meeting ground between
progressive corporations, private and public art institutions, and
contemporary and cutting edge visual artists, the Biennial presents
the work of national and international artists. The Physics Room
played host to a project by Auckland artist
Leigh Martin in 2000, and will this year again present a project
in conjunction with Art and Industry.
Black Maria @ Art
Reviews, Essays & Articles
Climb for visual treat
The Press, 2002 Sept. 18, p. C2
Black Maria, by Nathan Coley.
High noon at art saloon
The Press, 2002 Sept. 11, p. A9
Nathan Coley, Scottish artist, has erected a saloon facade called Black Maria
above The Physics Room on Tuam Street. It is one of 19 site-specific art works...
Art New Zealand, Sum 2002/2003; 105:50-51
Reviews 'PHY.09.02' by Hannah Beehre and Aaron Beehre, and 'Black Maria' by Nathan
THE BLACK MARIA : Nathan Coley
Essay by Kate Montgomery
The Physics Room Annual 2002