Interview: Craig Coulthard on Forest Pitch
The football pitch will be planted in the Borders and allowed to grow naturally
This July artist Craig Coulthard will create a working football ground deep within the Scottish Borders as part of Forest Pitch, a hotly anticipated commission for the Cultural Olympiad. Here he tells The List what to expect
Where did the idea for the project come from?
It came from playing football as a child, deep within a German forest near where I lived, and then playing as a teenager at Cathkin Park in Glasgow, where the concrete terraces were filled with trees rather than fans. I was in a plane looking down on the spruce plantations in the Borders and wondered who wanders through the forest tracks and why; why are the trees planted in such rigid formations? It was from this viewpoint that I began to question the ‘nature’ of Scotland’s landscape.
What makes the Borders such an interesting site for this?
I liked the idea of a large art work for the Cultural Olympiad being somewhere away from the central belt. The Bowhill Estate said they thought they had somewhere suitable, and when I first visited, it was without doubt the best site. The spruce is roughly half-way through its life, which allows time for the site to develop in the way I wanted. Also, it’s near a SNH site, and Gala Rig (purportedly Scotland’s oldest racecourse) so there is a real mix of land use and history nearby. And being near Selkirk, it has a personal interest to me as my father grew up there.
Can you talk a bit about the audience interaction with the project?
The audience play an important role during the games, and afterwards. As in any football match, the spectators contribute to the atmosphere. But some of the crowd will have an active role in documenting the games, with film cameras which I’ll be handing out, and secondly, in helping to spread a ‘myth’ of what actually happened on the day of the games. I will also be asking some spectators to ‘keep score’ for us. Once the games are over, the site is to be replanted with native trees along the lines of the pitch, so there will only be a trace of its use.
What do you hope to achieve as an artist?
I hope to create a memorable and inspiring day – and an environment and occasion which enables those present to question certain notions they may have had. In the long-term, I hope to achieve the creation of a site which grows and develops into something beautiful in the depths of what is otherwise a dark and suffocating monoculture.
What so you hope the audience can take away from it?
I hope the audience take away memories which will stay with them. I hope they question the environment around them and their understanding of its role, and their own role within a society.Forest Pitch takes place on Sat 25 Aug.