Skip to main content

Craig Coulthard – Forest Pitch


When Craig Coulthard was growing up in Germany, he liked a kickabout as 
much as most other small boys. It gave the Edinburgh-based artist a 
sense of belonging, he reckons, helped him bond and integrate with the 
German kids. Rather than scrambling about in jumpers-for-goalposts 
childhood, however, Coulthard’s games took place in a forest, 
undercover of an all-encompassing blanket of trees that gave the games 
a more dramatic and mysterious edge.

Coulthard revisited his old playground a couple of years ago while on a 
residency in Dusseldorf, only to find a razed and abandoned site. It 
was a similar story in Cathkin Park, the former home to the now defunct 
Third Lanark FC in Glasgow, where Coulthard played as a teenager, and 
where the overgrown trees lent the environment a moody air. Flying over 
the Borders en route home from Dusseldorf, Coulthard was similarly 
struck by the dense impenetrability of the tree-lined landscape below 
and what might just be at play beneath.

All of which goes some way to explaining the thinking behind Forest 
Pitch, Coulthard’s large-scale spectacle that forms Scotland’s 
contribution to 2012’s Cultural Olympiad, which offers artistic 
responses to the Olympic Games themselves. Starting with two football 
matches taking place over one day on private land on the Buccleuch 
Estate just outside Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, Forest Pitch will 
field four teams – two male, two female - made up of players of non-UK 
origin, but who have been granted Leave To Remain here this century.

Football has always been a big thing to me,” says Coulthard, who is 
overseeing all aspects of Forest Pitch, from team training sessions to 
team shirts designed by school-children, “and has been as influential 
as music and visual art, so I think it’s natural that my work’s going 
to be about things I’m interested in.”

Forest Pitch isn’t the first time Coulthard has looked to football for 
inspiration. Indeed, popular culture of all forms has been explicit in 
Coulthard’s work since his time on the MFA course at Edinburgh College 
of Art prior to co-founding the still active independent artspace The 
Embassy in Edinburgh. Football strips, flags and t-shirts are 
paramount, while Coulthard’s band vehicle, Randan Discotheque, released 
a single, Heather the Weather, in homage to iconic Scots TV 
weather-girl Heather Reid. As tartan-tinged an anthem as it gets, 
Heather the Weather’s chucking-out-time sing-along infectiousness is a 
crossover smash-hit in waiting.

While Forest Pitch possesses a similar common touch, the contradictions 
of such a wilfully inclusive work taking place in a country where the 
so-called ‘beautiful game’ has been tainted by sectarianism is plain to 
see. As is too the sport’s capitalist excesses that have recently 
resulted in Rangers’ financial collapse. As with some of Jeremy 
Deller’s civic-minded work, Forest Pitch is something of a reclaiming 
of the original people’s game’s roots.

In Scotland football is dominated by the Old Firm,” Coulthard 
observes, “but beyond that there are hundreds of thousands of people 
who go and watch their local teams play at amateur level. I wanted to 
highlight that football can be a unifying thing rather than a 
destructive one, and that football doesn’t have to be about power, 
money and tribalism.”

With this in mind, Forest Pitch’s long-term effect will not be apparent 
for a couple of decades, when trees planted to mark out the shape of a 
football pitch after the games will at last become visible when the 
existing plantation that envelopes them is cut down.

It will grow and change into this really odd site,” says Coulthard, 
and I hope it becomes something less tangible as well, and that people 
will try and understand their environment a bit more, and that the 
people who take part in the games will take something away from the 
experience that matters.”

Forest Pitch, Buccleuch Estate, near Selkirk, July 21st 2012. Ticket 
enquiries, tickets@forestpitch.org
www.forestpitch.org

Scottish Art News, Issue 18, July 2012

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ceildh

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars
One kiss is all it takes for everyone to understand each other in Catriona Lexy Campbell and Mairi Sine Campbell’s new play. Linguistically that is, as ancient and modern are brought to rollickingly intimate life by the Gaelic-based Theatre Gu Leor (Theatre Galore) company in the Tron’s Vic Bar en route to an extensive cross-Scotland tour. The set-up is the sort of ghastly tartan-draped corporate function whose perma-grinning hostess Lisa makes bogus claims of preserving culture while blatantly intent on flogging it off to the highest bidder. Think McWetherspoon by way of Trumpageddon.
With the audience ushered into a cabaret table arrangement by Lisa’s step-daughter Eilidh and serenaded by Eddie’s oh-so-couthy accordion playing, the dirt from Harris is unearthed along with a bottle of David Beckham-branded whisky. This causes the corporate shindig to be disrupted on an epic scale by seventeenth century poet Mairi Ruadh. Which is when both the kissing an…

The Duke

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Shon Dale-Jones seems like a very nice chap. You can tell from the way he welcomes each member of the audience into the theatre, shaking them by the hand to a soundtrack of energising 1960s feel-good soul. Such a personable approach helps create a warm and intimate atmosphere, so when he sits at a desk with only a laptop, a volume control and us for company, you can’t help but be charmed from the start of this hour-long foray, both into his own fantastical mind as well as the discursive set of first-world contradictions it lets loose into the world.
It begins with a Royal Worcester porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, which Dale-Jones’ dad bought in 1974 for £750. This would make it worth more than £8,000 in today’s money if his mum hadn’t broken it while dusting. This is just one more thing for Dale-Jones to think about as he attempts to apply a script doctor’s ruthless critique onto a film script he’s been working on for a deca…

This House

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Five years is a long time in politics just as it is in the theatre. When James Graham’s epic reimagining of one of the most pivotal eras in late twentieth century British democracy first appeared in 2012, its depiction of the aftermath of the 1974 hung parliament in Westminster chimed with a then current coalition. Half a decade and a couple of referendums on, Graham’s dramatic whizz through to 1979’s successful vote of no confidence in the Labour government now looks like a warning.
Jeremy Herrin and Jonathan O’Boyle’s touring revival of a production first seen at the National Theatre begins with both sides of the House marching en masse in their grey suits and twin-sets down the aisles of the auditorium before cutting a well-choreographed rug in formation. As the Labour and Tory whips mark out their territory away from the chamber, this proves to be one of the few moments of unity in a breathless yarn that picks at the old-school gentleman’s agree…