You might as well ask a crowHow can I make businesses more ethical?, 2016

End of winter

Visitors to the gallery were invited to ask the artist, Marcus Coates questions that preoccupied them and struggled to answer themselves. This text is his answer to the question

How can I make businesses more ethical?

Standing in the woodland with my back to the city. Listening. The birdsong is clear and obvious. At this time of year they are starting to establish territories. Their songs have the urgency of competition and a clarity in the cold air. Not many species singing, an open bandwidth. The lengthening of the days gives their songs growing purpose, warning-off rivals and attracting potential mates. The distinctly man made sounds of a construction site invade the woodland, together with the unrelenting city noises.

The great tit is insistent, by far the loudest

'Teach - er, teach - er, teach - er, teach - er'

A pneumatic drill hammers concrete, constant and blunt,

A lorry reversing 'Peee, peee, peee…' a chorister in comparison,

Fast drumming — a mechanical burst of beak on wood —a greater spotted woodpecker with its reinforced skull, batters out an advert for itself,

A jet overhead, approaching the end of its flight with its last breath,


We all listen to the big sky,

Pneumatic drill crashes the deadlock,

Great tit overlays, with its higher calls, both committed to their strategy — repetitive short loud notes,

A robin song, thin but loud. A different competition - more persuasive, not the hard sell. Its high seeping tones bring the cold closer some how,

Pneumatic drill v great tit, never a contest, happy to share the air,

Ack, ack, ack, ack, ack machine gun burst from a magpie, uncannily synched to the drill in phrase length, timing and even tone,

Pneumatic drill persists,

It’s getting crowded for the woodpecker, tries a new tree and matches the drill, so well that it’s easy to mistake it,

The robin is winning my attention, the varied and slippery fast pace is a different effort all together. It undercuts the rest by being so high,

Cawing crows, close to my voice, coming closer, tree by tree. Curious but wary. Their silence between calls is louder than the others.

Watching, listening, cawing — watching listening…

Gun shot. Dropped scaffold plank,

Frost is popping in the sun,

Reversing lorry tone is true and pure, measured,


Woodpecker loudest now,

Builders hammer nails into wood, too slow, keep up!

Woodpecker again, in response? although doesn't slow down to match,


Woodpecker drills, listens, drills again,

Magpie joins in same rhythm,

'Chak' of blackbird, an alarm call, punctures the sonic band,

Woodpecker drills, two sets,

Great tit, 'Teee, teee, teee', different bird?

Jackdaw sharp high and rough — 'Ja!'

Woodpecker three sets,

Robin imitates great tit,

Woodpecker three sets,

Magpie starts, fooled by the drill and woodpecker or is he fooling them?

Woodpecker three sets,

Pneumatic one set, too late,



Great tit reversing,

Woodpecker on new wood,

Woodpecker back to old wood, two sets,

Distant car alarm, seeping calls, half robin half reversing great tit,

Woodpecker has found the branch, triumphantly resonant and voluminous,




Two drills on two different trees,

A third on the left in distance,

No.1, 2, 1, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2 , 3,

Dog bark, sharp high, and rough, jackdog?

No.1, 2, 1, 2,

They’ve found their channel, they’re out bidding each other,

1, 2, 1, 2,

No.3 has gone to compete elsewhere,

No.2 new wood, new note, new ante,

Pneumatic thuds on, uncultured,

No.2 on the ropes now, a few bursts in the gaps between, biding his time, 'the drill must tire?'

No.1 goes quiet, his vision of this unrelenting rival must be gargantuan.

Both no.1 and no.2 restart, taking new positions at the edge of the wood, they must keep up,

They show their hand - nuanced responses from their repertoire of resonant trees. The subtlety of their drill becomes obvious.

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