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Barbican Art Gallery New Curve Art Series by Peter Coffin in February

LONDON.- The latest installation to be commissioned as part of the Curve Art series is by New York- based artist Peter Coffin. In his installations, sculptures, photography and videos, Coffin examines our knowledge and interpretation of the world with curiosity and wit. Coffin is particularly intrigued by things he does not understand and borrows from art history, science, mysticism and New Age beliefs to test his ideas about the way things work. In this, the ninth new commission for The Curve, Coffin explores various models of perspective and challenges the way in which we perceive spatial relationships.

In his largest installation ever in the UK, Coffin projects video footage of Japanese gardens along the 90-metre curved wall of the gallery. Using a specially designed remote-controlled helicopter mounted with eight cameras, Coffin filmed several gardens, capturing a 360- degree view. When projected onto the wall of the gallery, this footage forms a continuous yet disjunctive landscape, challenging our sense of perspective and scale. To further disorientate the viewer, Coffin introduces sound to the installation. Directional speakers placed at random points in the gallery play back the soundtrack of someone whistling. The third component to the work is a series of sculptures presented alongside the projections. Sculptures of everyday objects are rendered using a three-dimensional scanner and distorted to create spatial opposites that confound traditional notions of representation. The original objects and their counterparts are shown side by side.

Coffin’s interest in Japanese gardens stems from the fact that in the Japanese notion of landscape, perception of space is created through design. Unlike the concept of Western garden design, which is structured around vanishing point perspective, Japanese gardens use illusionist effects such as overlapping elements and multiple points of focus to create a false sense of depth and scale. The image projected onto the wall of The Curve reflects the seemingly flattened landscapes of Japanese paintings. Due to the curve of the gallery the viewer only sees a portion of the imagery at a time, in effect turning The Curve into a giant hand scroll.

Inspired by the belief that mysticism, scepticism and irrational thoughts enable us to leap beyond logical conclusions, Coffin’s playful explorations of these ideas provide an intriguing antithesis to our understanding of the world around us. For example, In Untitled (Greenhouse), 2002, Coffin invited musicians, DJs and sound artists to play in a greenhouse situated in a gallery in order to investigate the beneficial effects of music on plants. Other projects have included portraits of a person’s aura taken with a specially designed Polaroid camera, found postcards of rainbows composed into a psychedelic spiral and trousers made for trees. In July 2008, Coffin built and flew a seven metre wide UFO, controlled by text messaging over the Baltic, in an attempt to see if there is an increase in reported UFO sightings during times of political and economic conflict.

Peter Coffin lives and works in New York. Born in Berkeley, California in 1972, he received a graduate degree from the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. He has also exhibited a number of solo exhibitions, including Music for Plants, at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France, 2007 and U.F.O., at the Festiwal Gwiazd, Gdansk, Poland, 2008 . He has exhibited in group exhibitions at institutions throughout Europe and America including Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, 2008; Tate Modern, London, 2007; P.S.1/MoMA, Long Island City, New York, 2005 and 2001 and South London Gallery, London, 2004. Coffin took part in the Moscow Biennial, 2007 and Manifesta 7, 2008 and will take part in the Tate Triennial in February 2009.

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