This summer a U.F.O. was built and flown over the Baltic Sea and into the Gulf of Gdansk where it was witnessed by onlookers whose sightings were captured on cell phone cameras, camcorders, digital cameras, 35 mm SLRs. The photographs and videos are not unlike classic U.F.O. documentation; they are grainy, blurry, and may appear to be of skeptical origin. While the U.F.O. in these photos is real, this familiar documentation initiates inclinations toward curiosity, skepticism or belief. Peter Coffin’s obvious interest in ufology is one of the many facets of this œuvre with no stylistic uniformity, shot through with numerous interactions between memory processes, forms of perception, subjectivity and exact sciences.
Peter Coffin’s close interest in music thus leads him to spatialize what is to say the least a contradictory effect, the Shepard-Risset Glissando, which creates the illusion of a scale that simultaneously ascends and descends, to infinity. Treating with grave application something that reason would reject out of hand, Coffin also draws attention by inviting musicians to compose for plants, as he has postulated the existence of an aesthetic sense in the animal kingdom, and to argue his case in pictures, presenting excerpts from documentaries in which a broad range of animals seem to be deliberately conducting aesthetic experiments.
Aesthetics, a term that has lost any precise meaning, was initially defined as a philosophy of sensory perception, before veering off into ordinary language to designate a quality inherent to an object and hence outside the body.So aesthetics in the philosophical sense would seem to be the recurring subject of Peter Coffin’s protean investigations.
The artist has, for instance, devoted considerable attention to the 20th century’s best-known works, from Matisse’s La Danse to Eames’ Lounge Chair, which he has redone in imprints or silhouettes, forms that have become simple and questioning their ability to fill the mind. Highly poetical, Peter Coffin’s works thus induce two conflicting feelings: a childish simplicity verging on platitude, followed immediately by the persistent intuition that this simplicity proves to be a substitute for more complex original forms.
Mixing pseudo-science and new-age imagination with an undisguised interest in mapping and systems, Peter Coffin’s work offers art as an alternative to logical thinking, whose supremacy is partly failing. Making visible in this way things that do not belong to reality, or offering simultaneously an element and its opposite, seem to be converging towards a single purpose, namely to free the imagination and at the same time offer—either physically or conceptually, or both—an experience that on the face of it goes against the presuppositions of our systems of perception, as if the better to free them from an overly confined framework.
WITH THE KIND SUPPORT OF Loterie Romande, Coriolis Promotion, Canton de Fribourg, Office fédéral de la culture, Fondation Ernst Göhner, Migros culture percentage & special support of The Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation.