How do we perceive humanness through nonhuman realities? An extensive knowledge and understanding of British wildlife has allowed Marcus Coates to create unique interpretations of the natural world and its evolving relationship with society. Coates’s project presented at Manifesta 7 is named after and recreates a Dawn Chorus. Using humans to mimic birdsong, the work replicates a romantic idyll – the unmediated “pure expression” of the chorus – that suggests a lost or evolutionary connection between our mundane isolation and the natural world. Coates, together with wildlife sound engineer Geoff Sample, recorded the dawn chorus at three sites in Northumberland in northeastern England over six mornings. Coates then trained amateur singers to replicate particular birdsongs but at drastically slower speeds, filmed them singing for up to two hours in their own habitats – from an office to a garden shed – and speeded up the film to yield four minutes of finished footage. Although this laborious process demonstrates that there is no shared language between the human and non-human worlds, we can discern points of connection and analogy in habitats, communication and possibly cultural artifacts.
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