A Ritual for Elephant and Castle, Crome Hoof and Marcus Coates @ Cornet Theatre 5th June 2009

I made a special trip to London for this because projects that put visual artists on stage always fascinate me. (See also II Tempo del Postino as part of Manchester International Festival for an even more esoteric helping of artists in the theatre).

Marcus Coates work is often presented in galleries and I wondered how it’s meaning might shift within the  context of a stage and a crowd of several hundred Friday night gig goers.

A performer by nature, Coates had no problem winning over the crowd, who after a period of initial confusion seemed willing to loose themselves in his ecstatic performance. Wearing a giant horse head and sliver suit, Coates manifested the animalistic behavior that is very familiar from earlier works, ramped up to fever pitch!

A project commissioned by Nomad the ritual was a response to the current redevelopment of Elephant and Castle and a bid to exorcise the area and provide a cultural platform for regeneration. In an interview for spoonfed.co.uk, Nomad’s Michael Smythe emphasizes their bid to interact with the community stating that ‘we also lived rough on the Heygate Estate, we slept rough in the derelict areas.’

In 2004 Coates made work in response to a similar issue when he filmed himself performing a shamanic ritual in the  living rooms of a Liverpool tower block that was scheduled for demolition. Yet as I examined the crowd of gig goers from my spot on the VIP balcony, I could not help but feel that this was a unique event for a crowd of art elite, rather than an attempt to create a lasting connection to Elephant and Caste and its inhabitants.

Taken at face value however, this was a brilliant event. The Cornet theatre provided a spectacular back drop to a brave piece of artistic programming and a mesmerizing performance. I can’t wait for Nomad’s next commission!

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