2. Part One - Contemporary Art · 2.c. Project 3 -Place in art

Case Study – ‘A Place Beyond Belief’

A Place Beyond Belief – Nathan Coley


What’s your first response to this piece?

I like what the text says. ‘A place beyond belief’ conjures up a lot of mystical images for me. I think of remote islands, beautiful scenery, mystic worlds. But the piece itself doesn’t really live up to the words. It’s almost like a juxtaposition of itself. A place beyond belief should be something otherworldly and mesmerizingly beautiful, in my mind anyway’ but the reality of the piece is some metal with a few light bulbs. But I like the freedom of this piece. That it allows me to envisage what ever I want from just a hint from those words. I have always used my imagination and I love to read for that very reason so I feel like that’s the same response my brain has to this piece.

What questions are you going to ask in order to make sense of the piece?

What is the context behind it. What is the artists history? What is their other work like? Where is it located? I have so many questions. I notice what looks to be a religious building in the background. Is this relative to the piece? The word used ‘belief’ is that somewhat reflective for the fact that it is near a place of worship? Is this piece actually about God? Was the artist religious?

What type of work do you think this is? It could fit into several categories. How would you define it?

I would say it is conceptual art, site- specific and text based. It would probably fit into several types but I feel my understanding of art types is lacking (although this is something I am working on) so I wouldn’t know exactly which categories it would fit into. Modern, Contemporary, Abstract maybe?

What do you think the text is about?

At this stage in research I honestly have no idea. I think it could be about 1 of 2 things. The idea of using your imagination and transporting yourself to a place that you would deem ‘beyond belief’ like a vacation destination or mythical land. But the image provided of the piece also shows what looks to be a religious building behind it, so is this a piece about God? About the act of worship being more than just about belief but connection? I have a lot of questions about this piece which I’m looking forward to investigating.


Nathan Coley – Monologue Video

What are your first thoughts after listening to the monologue?

I feel very overwhelmed after listening to the monologue. The context is a lot more powerful than I had originally anticipated and considering some of the issues that are happening right now in the world (especially with the political chaos behind Donald Trump’s inauguration, this monologue was very poignant and gave me a very emotional response to the piece.

What other information can you find on Coley’s website about this particular piece?

Like a lot of Coley’s work, this piece was mobile. It has travelled with the flow of politics around the world and has been said to have been a beacon during harder times. I actually saw this piece in person as well as his ‘Palace’ piece back in 2015 when me and my husband honeymooned in Bruges. The political notes behind his works will never loose their meaning.

Where is it actually sited?


Does this alter your response to it?

Yes. I think a lot more seriously about this piece now. I feel completely emotionally moved by the piece after reading and hearing about the context behind it.

Have your views on this piece changed after listening to Coley speak about it? If so, why?

My view has  changed drastically yes. The power behind this piece is very strong. The idea of finding a place beyond belief, a place where we don’t judge others because of their faith, where we don’t stereotype people from what they wear or the colour of their skin is very moving and especially with the issues in the world today is very prevalent.


Ask Yourself

Do you think contextual information is essential to gaining a greater understanding of contemporary work?

I think contextual information is highly essential in gaining a deeper understanding of a piece. We can all interpret and see/think/feel what we want to see/think/feel but the point of creating art (especially one that has a back story and message like this one) is to spread awareness or a message and to ensure everyone gets that, contextual information has to be provided. There will be a lot pf people who wont understand the original intention or wont go home and research and they will be missing out on a very emotional response to this piece. I saw this piece when I was on my honeymoon in Bruges in 2015 and I thought ‘oh I like that. I think the words’ I was on my honey moon and everything had that rosy tint to it and I was like ‘yeah, this is a place beyond belief’ but had I know the actual story behind it and what the message was, I would have thought very differently about it.

Do you think it should be an essential ingredient?

Most definitely. Context will open up art to a wide range of people who may be put off because ‘they don’t get it’.


A Place Beyond Belief

What do you think about this piece? What do you think it achieves?

I think this piece is a powerful political statement and also an opportunity to think about how a place can become ‘a place beyond belief’. It’s very versatile and its site will have different effects. When I saw it in Bruges it was sited in front of a park. It was August, the sun was out, the trees were bushy and bright green, the outstanding gothic architecture surrounded the outskirts of the park and it really did look like a place beyond belief. But in the image we were given, when it is sited in the midst of an underdeveloped area with ruble in mounds and the grass yellow and dead and the image of the religious building behind it, the context changes. It becomes a juxtaposition for it’s environment, a sarcastic comment for where it is placed or it could be a beacon of what the area could be one day.

Look through other work of Coley’s. Pick two or three pieces that look interesting to you. Consider whether you can see connections across his works. Identify some of his major motivations for making work.

I looked at ‘Fear of Death’, ‘Heaven is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens’ and ‘Never Trust a Loving God’.

From the titles alone you can tell that the main connection across his work is the idea of religion. I also feel like he create a lot of piece that are based around place, he has a lot of site specific works or works that can be viewed differently when in different places/environments (like ‘A place beyond belief’)




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