From the sublime to the ridiculous: Extinction in the work of Marcus Coates

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This article examines extinction in recent performances by the British contemporary artist Marcus Coates. It considers three works, including Human Report (2008), Apology to the Great Auk (2017) and The Last of Its Kind (2017), which tackle the disappearance of species and habitats in ways that are often comic and absurd. While humour might initially appear incongruous and insensitive as a way of dealing with such serious subjects, this article argues that Coates cultivates this characteristic of his ecologically-orientated performances in sincere and strategic ways. I demonstrate how these works wield satire, parody, bathos and the absurd to raise awareness of extinction and even foster a desire to act in the face of it. The article situates Coates’s performances in the realm of the ‘ridiculous’ as conceived by Timothy Morton (2016), in which satire and melancholy coalesce and where we might ‘encounter the art of the absurd’ (144), in order to consider the ecological possibilities of humour in this body of work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-142
Number of pages6
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2020

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