they targets‘.’ By asking the viewer to imagine him or herself as a bomber. or as God. Coley questions what these religious spaces mean: what purpose they serve.
()ne of his most poignant pieces is a scale model of the building in Manchester that was damaged by an IRA bomb in 1996 and later demolished. Coley‘s representation of this otherwise anonymous (u()s office block. which housed a Marks & Spencer on its ground ﬂoor. is stained black. On its side he has added a graffiti-like slogan: ‘I DON'T HAVE ANOTHER LANI)‘. The slogan comes from a folk song. but Coley is reluctant to discuss any political biases in the work. ‘You can make of it whatever you wish.’ he says. ‘I simply wanted to examine a space whose changing usage was symbolic for Manchester. Once. the canopy outside the old Marks & Spencer was a place where young people would meet on a Friday night: afterwards. the reconstruction of the building came to be a symbol for the regeneration of the entire city.‘
Some of (‘oley‘s ebullience and humour can't fail to find its way into his work. One piece. a poster displayed on billboards around Stirling. simply proclaimed: ‘There will be no miracles here. By order of the King.‘ It was a real statement that Coley had discovered in the city’s archives. and one which brilliantly articulates the classic power struggle between church and state. it‘s so succinct that he has even given the title to the book that accompanies the exhibition.
But his biggest and most ambitious work to date has also turned out to play its own joke on Coley. Having read a text in which Victorian writer John Ruskin claimed that true architecture requires a sacrifice. Coley decided to embark on his own sacrifice. by spending four months constructing all of the places of worship listed in the Edinburgh Yellow Pages. There turned out to be 286 of them and Coley. together with his assistant Tony Nolan. has made 1:30 scale cardboard models of all the churches. synagogues. mosques and sanctuaries on the list. ‘l‘m so bored. I've got nothing left to say. nothing left to think except to count down the number of models l have left to make.‘ he says. ‘And the odd scalpel wound.‘ But fortunately for him. the
result should be astonishing. and the fruits of
(Toley‘s sacrifice will provide the highlight of this important and timely exhibition.
Nathan Coley is at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, from Sat 22 May. There will be no miracles here is published by the Fruitmarket and Locus+
GOD IS IN THE DETAIL
Architect MALCOLM FRASER, whose buildings include Dance Base, and the Scottish Poetry Library. discusses the relationship between spiritualism and space. Sacred space. with its implications of hierarchy and religiosity, has been problematic for us. In the past it seemed simpler: churches and temples, the art of proper architecture instead of ordinary building. But modernism seemed to sweep that all away; we are all supposed to be ‘artists’. or to apply our an equally to all buildings. and the old divisions are. unhappily dictatorial. But with this ﬂattening we’ve lost our sense of higher things, and any concept of ‘sacred’ space that is not strictly personal.
80 if we can talk about sacred space again, what might that be, today? We need a deﬁnition that retains the democratic and inclusive in the modern. but regains the sense of specialness in the sacred. For me, the idea of pantheism helps. that God is revealed across the whole workings of the universe (and that the thinking scientist is as much its priest as the philosopher).
To me, the workings of universe have order. rhythm and pattern; and anywhere where we deliberately gather to celebrate that, is sacred. So yes, churches and temples are sacred. but so is Calton Hill if we choose to weave patterns up it. And the places where we organise our society, our Parliaments and Town Halls. must be sacred too.
ln my own work, I can start to understand the difference between the craft and the art of architecture. All my buildings might concern themselves with gathering. openness. light and the connectedness of people. landscape and building but there are buildings where there seems more of an imperative to make manifest our understanding of this. of our place in the heavens.
We made buildings for the arts and understood them as sacred. In the Scottish Poetry Library the patterns of poetry are one with the southerly light and the view of the Crags that you receive crossing its threshold. While at DanceBase the patterns we make when we dance spiral out to the city — when I danced a simple Strip the Willow, in the warm wooden bowl of the principal studio under the great glazed roof. it was a joyful, detailed weaving of the universal double helix that we danced. Proper architecture. I hope.
13—27 May 2004 THE LIST 21