This years Bournemouth Emerging Arts Festival has kicked off a great season for Art in Bournemouth. We caught up with Artist Martin Coyne ahead of his exhibition A Handful of Dust to chat to him about art, T.S. Elliot and the hopes and fears of others.




What interests you about making interactive installations?

The most exciting thing about that particular technology is, I like the idea that something reacts to people’s presence. I started of as a photographer and I developed problems with photography and the fact photography was a very dead medium, it preserves the moment but sort of kills it at the same time. It sort of freezes things in space. It’s a very quiet medium as well, so it’s dead and silent and the more I got to know it, the more it started becoming problematic to me. So I started to look at video installation and video installation which was very interesting and more enigmatic, but again there was something dead about it. Something like a light just fading on the wall, it was not quite as satisfying as I wanted it to be. With interactivity, . That when somebody comes into the room, their very presence changes the room, I find that fascinating, I find that very interesting to work with and that’s what pulled me into interactivity.


How have you been developing your making skills to pull your audience in?

Technically, I use 4V or VVVV which is a graphic coding interface, which I started learning in Manchester about 3 years ago now and there was a guy called Elliot Woods, who taught me 4V. He doesn’t live in this country anymore, he’s in Korea and he travels around the world teaching 4V and basically, I’ve met few very clever people in my life and I’ve only met one genius and Elliot is that genius. So whenever he does a workshop I’ll try and be, I went to Russia about two years ago and he was giving a digital emulsion workshop, and I went to an advanced 4v workshop in Manchester and then I went to NODE which is the big 4V conference in Hamburg this year. Elliot was delivering loads of other workshops, so using those graphic coding interfacing that’s where I learnt all the technical stuff, it was incredibly liberating but difficult because I’m not a natural coder, it sort of melts my brain a little bit, but the interfaces are a nice in between point where I can build levels of functionality, it’s almost like writing custom software. I can sort of hack up other peoples patches and group them together and learn them that way. That’s the way I learn the technical aspects. The film making skills, Photoshop and premiere are all under my belt and that’s what I teach here (at AUB).


Conceptually, I’ve just been trying to keep my eyes open, I try reading as much as I possibly can and still keep myself interested that way and try to visit exhibitions. I still trying to make my work into something that is technologically cutting edge, but I don’t want to sacrifice that in terms of concept as well, I don’t want something that’s just a digital gimmick with very little depth behind it, I still want to maintain the conceptual integrity of the work, so again it’s looking at all the text, theory on concept and looking at the grand themes within art. My work is very much about transcendence, very much about the liminality, it’s very much about exstasis, so what I try to do with my work is digital exstasis which tries to give the sense of awe and wonder in the same sort of way as looking at grand art does but doing it in a digital way.


What gave you the idea?

The work that I’m doing is called The Handful of Dust. The quote “The Handful of Dust” comes from a T.S Eliot poem called the Wasteland, written in I think 1921, Elliot wrote the Wasteland as a reaction to the First World War. Basically, he was appalled by modernity and he wrote this very complex poem around it. Its difficult to understand, it takes a long time to understand, it’s got a lot of references, it was a very dense and it was a very thick piece of literature and there’s so much in there, it references pre-Arthurian legend and deals with contemporary moral issues. Viewed through 21st century glasses it sounds very much like the way we’re affecting the environment. The actual statement is “I’ll show you fear and I’ll show you a handful of dust” and a handful of dust is such a redolent statement because a handful of dust is something decrepit, something decayed, something gone wrong, something useless but at the same time on biblical terms, we’re meant to be made out of dust, it links us to the universe as all the matter in the universe came from the belly of a star, that handful of dust can become a part of a human being; it has so much potential. So and then the work is not about singularity, we seem to be dashing towards singularity in this society, ideologically and technologically.


This is more about duality. We have two choices in front of us right now, we have to choice of ruin or we have the choice of hope. We’ve got to look at that way right now, if we chose the sort of fearful grasping way of global capitalism and ruin we’ll run out of resources then we’re screwed, In fifty years, we’ll reach the tipping point and the global temperature will go up by four degrees and horrible things will happen. I’m not anti-capitalist in a reactionary way, I understand capitalism is a way we had to evolve, back in the day agrarian in society reached its zenith, it could only be pushed forward by free market and capitalist means. I just see it as something that’s run its course; we need to grow out it. I think there’s the last set of dead fingers holding onto this way of doing things and it’s pure fear, rather than looking at things like “we can’t sustain that growth, so we need to find new ways of living and new mode of working, whether that’ll be looking at sustainable energy or social democracy” so that is the choice and that is what my work tries to describe and put across. It does that through mapped projection; a representation of ruin, and one of hope.


The work also does this through voices and music; people have recorded their fears and record their hopes. Some are anecdotal, some are poems and some are statistics, and they’ll loop around as you go through the installation, you’ll hear the different parts triggered by the Kinect sensor. I’m using a patch called Kinect Hit Boxes written by a mad Russian guy called Andrej Boleslavský which I’ve downloaded and hacked. This is one of the great things about digital art world, it’s moving so quickly there are no real rules, at the same time there’s real generosity. Within other disciplines, such as photography and fine art, people can be very sniffy and holding things close to their chest. It’s one of the things I like about it.


What would you say your main influences are?

When I first started out, I just wanted to be noticed, I wanted a way to differentiate myself from other people, and try to make myself look special but the more I go on with that the less I find it an inspiration; I find that a bit of a fearful way of doing things. And now, I try for my work to be an act of love, act of compassion, act of selflessness and try to do something for good sake, trying to create beauty as well and also create something complex and interesting but at the same time something that’s useful, something of political and spiritual value. So again, what I’ve been influenced by is hope and fear and so I’m trying to get fear to move into hope and trying do things that way. I always look at loads of art and see how great art inspires me, I take my influence by a million different resources, but at the same time personally my ambition is to leave the world a little better than I found it.