David Cotterrell : South Facing
South Facing

11 Nobember - 11 December 2005

Tower blocks, traffic police and visions for a problematised Utopia are presented in South Facing, David Cotterrell’s second solo exhibition at Danielle Arnaud contemporary art.

Cotterrell explores notions of heroism within the dystopic reality of the fast-emerging megalopolis that is contemporary Shanghai. Enormous population masses existing in kit-built clusters of ‘vertical villages’ characterise what Cotterrell calls cities without centres; characterless ‘suburbs’ found in the urban core.

In Shanghai, demand outstrips time - buildings and roads are thrown up at a rate compatible with need rather than design. Within most new builds, there exist segments in which ‘filler’ blocks culled from archives have been used. Even Shanghai’s exclusive gated communities, offering Utopic promises of bespoke design are not immune to the lure of pre-existing massing layouts.

Cotterrell provides two views of this state of affairs: on one floor, he produces an entire city of ‘filler’ blocks - 750 miniature towers, each between 25 and 35 storeys and capable of housing 750 people each. Clustered in 50 block arrangements, Cotterrell’s suburban ‘Utopia’ houses half a million souls in search of a centre. The People’s Republic of China dictates that each new build be at least 15o South-facing, reflecting the Emperor’s palaces, in which private quarters faced south and the less - valued courtiers’ rooms faced either east or west. In the new China, everyone is given the opportunity to live like a King.

The problematics of living in this dense structure are further explored in a series of short video sketches Cotterrell filmed on the streets of Shanghai: traffic conductors, lone policemen and traffic ‘assistants’ are individually documented attempting to impose order on the masses of cars, trucks, buses, bicycles and pedestrians of central Shanghai. These men, reminiscent of Gary Cooper’s Marshal Will Kane, single-handedly attempt to stem the seeping of traffic along gargantuan stretches of 10-lane motorways. Ignored and avoided, their attempts are comi-tragic - like a modern-day Sisyphus, each must do battle with the masses and their machines to earn his daily bread.

David Cotterrell received an MA in Combined Media from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 1997. He was selected for Beck's Futures 2002 and has been included in international exhibitions including Tel Aviv, Seoul, Zurich, Bremen, Siena. He is currently participating in Guardami, an international exhibition surveying video art, in Siena, and his latest public art commission for the new Unicorn Theatre will be unveiled at the beginning of December.

David Cotterrell would like to acknowledge the support of the Arts Council England and British Council China Artist Links project, Sheffield Hallam University and JsM Modelmakers in the research, development and realisation of this exhibition.

Impresario   Hero
Impresario 2005
video still
  Hero 2005
video still
South Facing
South Facing , 2005
machined MDF, gesso, paint and cast plaster, 200 x 300 x 50cm
(installation view)
To see more installation views of South Facing, go to
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