Super-Utrecht: Nathan Coley

1 November–31 December 2002 / Leidsche Rijn
Location: “De Veldhof” Heldammersingel, Leidsche Rijn, Utrecht. 

Nathan Coley (b.1967, Dundee) has examined the roads that have been built in Leidsche Rijn and the systems accompanying their construction – funding, politics, social planning, and primarily, people. Reviewing these local circumstances, he was reminded of the work of the English artist, thinker, and writer John Ruskin (1818-1900) that centers on the difference between “building” and “architecture”. In Ruskin’s view, building is a purely functional process, whereas architecture deals with meaning. During his time teaching at Oxford University, Ruskin undertook a project with his students to build a road “to teach the students the dignity of labor”. “The road itself was unremarkable, but the process involved in making it truly astonishing,” says Coley.  

Coley sought to replicate the “dignity of labor” with contemporary means by working with Utrecht art academy students to produce a large-scale banner with the anecdote about Ruskin’s road hand-drawn on its surface. By placing the banner on an unfinished high-rise building in Leidsche Rijn, the artist wishes to acknowledge the idea that virtue can be found in different areas of life, in hard physical labor for example, and that the collaborative process involved in “building” can also contribute to the formation of a community.  


Nathan Coley’s project was made possible with financial support of the British Council.

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