24/06/2006 — 29/07/2006

Mike Marshall

At The Edge Of The Known World

Mike Marshall, 'Birds sing in response to a distant calamity', installation Grundy Art Gallery

photo: Jonathan Lynch

This was a major exhibition of video, photography and sound work by British artist Mike Marshall. Marshall’s work explores the edges of the familiar, focusing in on places, situations and aspects of experience often passed by or only half noticed.

The artist uses his chosen media to carefully take apart and re-assemble his subject matter, finding both interest and an often beguiling intensity within what he terms ‘the background noise of life’.

'Birds Sing In Response To A Distant Calamity', 2006 is a multi-speaker soundscape produced for this exhibition. The artist meticulously orchestrated a variety of birdsong to construct a sonic environment, bringing the outside into the confines of the main gallery space. A distant boom triggers a flurry of activity, birds call and respond from one speaker to another, their abstract sonorous language overlapping and merging then gradually subsiding before another distant boom disturbs the approaching tranquillity. The work functions at different levels: what on the surface may appear as a pleasant ambience reminiscent of days spent walking through countryside is at the same time a precise ordering of a competitive struggle for territory and survival.

'A Place Not Far From Here ', 2005 is a video work set in a clearing of tropical woodland, sunlight flicking through the foliage. Shot from a chair that swings from a tree, the scene gently floats and turns. Accompanied by an amplified ambient sound track, a bass note occasionally punctuates the calm to lend momentum along with close whispers of words caught in the first moment of formation. There is a sense of semi-conscious quiet relaxation evoked by this work, at the same time colliding with a feeling of disquieting suspense.

Marshall’s large-scale photographic works attempt to go beyond the photographic moment into prolonging a temporal activation of experience, slowing down the time of looking in order to reveal an acute sense of presence. Thickets of vegetation, front gardens, distant boats foregrounded by wild grass; these scenes have a subtlety to their construction while appearing as stumbled across without any predefining motive. Each depicts a densely filled, luminous space and employs an ambiguous layering of depth and focus, placing the viewer in an uncertain threshold between a kind of ‘blank staring’ and a concentrated, detailed looking.


Organised in collaboration with Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, and funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.