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Simon Martin


10:00 - 21:00 at the Norman Chapel, Durham Castle, Palace Green, Durham DH1 3RW
11:00 - 18:00 at Trevelyan College, Durham University, Elvet Hill Road, Durham DH1 3LN

Simon Martin's works have been described by the New York Times as "masterpieces of poetic discretion". His career has included showing with White Columns, New York, and acquisitions for the permanent collections of Tate and the Arts Council. The common denominator across his diverse forms of work is the question of what value we attribute to the experience of art, and to its objects. Often Martin makes use of either techniques of appropriation, or of media that escape commodification. For the last three years he has made sound works that can only be experienced rather than owned, and are experienced in particular spaces.

These works are made with the digital technologies used to create electronic music, and they share in its forms. The work takes its cue from the rich history of both experimental electroacoustic music and contemporary dance culture. Over a set period of time individual rhythmical motifs undergo subtle modulations, heightening our perception of the 'space of sound' by drawing us into listening ever more carefully, and more intensely.

Martin's new works are made in response to the acoustics and histories of particular spaces. The first is created for the Norman Chapel in Durham Castle, constructed in 1080. Now part of University College, Durham University, it is the city's oldest building and part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Martin advocates what he has described as 'critical listening' as a way of navigating the built environment. This might include all forms of available aurality, at once traditionally revered composition and the everyday noise of the city.

At a time when digital media offers a flood of instant content, distributing our attention across 'virtual space', Martin's use of it runs in a counter-direction, asking us to be present. His quadrophonic work makes us conscious of the strange presence and tangibility of sound: its thickness, texture, and its occupation of space. The second of his new pieces is shown in an oddly intense and claustrophobic circulation space in Trevelyan College. Trevelyan is an astonishing complex of hexagonal modernist buildings, whose 1960s ideal geometries were similarly intended to unify its inhabitants, creating an imagined community. These two works offer new ways of seeing the city and its histories. 

Generously supported by Centre for Visual Arts and Culture at Durham University and University College. See  Curated with Dr Hazel Donkin, Durham University and realised with Matthew Walsh.

About the artist:
Simon Martin was born in Cheshire, England in 1965, and lives and works in London. Selected solo exhibitions include Camden Arts Centre, London (2015); Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea (offsite commission 2014); Kunstverein Amsterdam, Amsterdam (2010); Chisenhale Gallery, London (2008); The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto (2006); White Columns, New York (2005). Selected group exhibitions include JAGUARS AND ELECTRIC EELS, Julia Stoschek Collection Berlin (2017); The Parliament of Things, Firstsite, Colchester (2015); The Event Sculpture, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2014); Glasgow International, Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow (2014); The Imaginary Museum, Kunstverein, Munich (with Ed Atkins) (2012); Martin was the recipient of a Paul Hamlyn Award (2008) and shortlisted for the Jarman Award (2009), and received the Stanley Picker Fine Art Fellowship in 2015.

About the Norman Chapel, Durham Castle, Palace Green, Durham DH1 3RW:
The Norman Chapel is among Durham Castle's most important spaces and, constructed around 1080, the city's oldest surviving building. It was the Bishop of Durham's private chapel and is not ordinarily accessible to the public except on guided tours. Highly unusually, the Chapel has survived in its Norman form largely intact. The chapel features an unusual array of medieval carvings.
Durham Castle was founded by William the Conqueror in 1072 and became the property of Bishop Walcher in 1075. It remained the residence of the Prince-Bishops into modern times. In 1837, the Castle was given to the University and became University College. Since 1986 along with the Cathedral, it has been part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Norman Chapel can be seen in a virtual tour at Durham University's website:

About Trevelyan College, Durham University, Elvet Hill Road, Durham DH1 3LN:
Trevelyan College was founded in 1966 and the college believe it was the last purpose-built women-only college in the UK and even outside of the Islamic world. In 1992 it admitted both sexes. It was designed by John Eastwick-Field and is a landmark in modernist educational architecture. As the College describe however, "it reflects the form of [Durham] Castle in modern style, made up of inter-linked hexagonal blocks, whose grouping of rooms creates micro-communities". Its architecture both looks to the self-contained life of the Castle and towards models of communal living. Some of the design decisions and details remain extraordinarily striking. The corridor spaces, where Martin's work is situated, are deliberately narrow and windowless, as though defensive fortifications. In fact, Eastwick-Field's rationale was that enforced close proximity would encourage collegiality and spontaneous social interactions. As the College Principal remarks, "the College's unusual architecture naturally produces almost-instant social groups".

Trevelyan is a little-known late-modernist masterpiece that is powerfully evocative of what some see as a long lost world: that of the idealistic, collectivist 1960s. These ideals, oddly like those of medieval architecture, are made manifest in complex geometries that unify the community enclosed and shaped by them. The college rightly describes its "'under one roof' architecture" as "unique": every detail was carefully conceived to be part of a complete environment, incorporating spaces for living, working and social activity. Every building is hexagonal: there is not a single orthogonal wall in the entire honeycomb plan. The event provides an opportunity to experience both one of the most unusual architectural environments in modern educational history, and its extraordinary art collection. The College's collection includes bodies of work by Mary Fedden, the first female tutor at the Royal College of Art's painting department, and by Julian Trevelyan.

About the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, Durham University:
CVAC brings together scholars from across and beyond Durham University in order to provide a dynamic setting for wide-ranging interdisciplinary research and debates about visual culture, a field that entails the study of vision and perception, the analysis of the social significance of images and ways of seeing, and the attentive interpretation of a range of visual objects, from artworks to scientific images. See