Radio Shaman, 2006
Digital video, HD 1920 × 1080 16:9
Filmed in Stavanger, Norway
Camera and sound by Calum Stirling
Production Coordinator: Torunn Larsen
Produced by Rogaland Kunstsenter, Stavanger, Norway
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 06 and Rogaland Kunstsenter
Client: Residents of the city of Stavanger, Norway
Locations: Stavanger, Norway (NRK Radio Station, Stavanger Domkirke Cathedral, City Mayor’s office, Sex Worker locations)
Question: What can be done about the prostitution and people trafficking here in Stavanger?
One of the main issues facing Stavanger during Coates’s visits was the recent influx of West African women working as prostitutes in the city. Coates engaged with this by consulting local journalists, street priests, politicians, Stavanger police, the City Mayor’s political advisors, prostitutes and members of the public, to learn as much as he could about it. Then, dressed in a stag skin and a business suit, he performed a series of rituals in the Cathedral, Mayor’s office and red light district. The video follows Coates as he reports his findings to the city via a live radio interview.
[NRK Radio Station: Marcus Coates is wearing suit, stag pelt and hare head and carrying a stuffed hare. Music playing (broadcast). The presenter welcomes MC to the studio and introduces the project in Norwegian.]
Presenter: What kind of performance will you be doing in Stavanger these days?
MARCUS COATES: I work as a shaman. A shaman is traditionally someone how works with their community and helps solve problems that it’s very difficult to find solutions for.
Presenter: And what kind of problems are you going to solve for the Stavanger community?
MC: I came to Stavanger earlier in the year and I asked people what kind of problems do you have here. The problem that kept coming up, more than anything, was the recent influx of prostitutes from Nigeria and West Africa.
Presenter: And what are you going to do with that situation?
MC: I devised a ritual. I’ve gone round the city to specific sites: the spiritual centre which is the cathedral; the political centre – the council offices; and I’ve gone to the streets where the prostitutes work and I performed a ritual at each of these points.
[We see MC walking down the aisle of the cathedral, performing his ritual in the assistant mayor’s office and on the street corner used by prostitutes. We hear the Cathedral organ music.]
Presenter: And what kind of things are you doing, Marcus Coates?
MC: I talked to a deer, a badger, seals, birds – all these animals.
Presenter: And what results from these talks with the animals?
MC: Many of these animals show me signs: the seal was very significant.
Presenter: And why was the seal so important for you?
MC: I kept coming across this seal over and over again. It was on the sand by the sea and it was a young seal, it had white fur and it was obviously stranded. I wanted to help it back into the water, but if I touched it, it would bite me and I could see its parents in the water. If I got near it, I would have scared the parents, so I felt very helpless in this situation. I really wanted to help but I didn’t understand the complexity of what was going on. I’m interested in how this vision relates to the prostitute problem.
Presenter: And what’s your solution on the prostitutes from Stavanger?
MC: I am not comparing a baby seal with a prostitute. I am empathising with the feelings of powerlessness the community have over this issue. It feels as if no-one has an answer, no-one knows what to do about this problem. Because of my experience with the seal, I understand it can be very dangerous to help or rescue a situation you don’t understand. Stavanger needs to understand the complexity of the problem. I feel you need to travel to Nigeria, talk to people there, find out about the problem, and bring people from Nigeria to Stavanger to talk to about this and help.