Caught by the River

Middle of Somewhere

7th May 2024

This Saturday, Middle of Somewhere — a new exhibition of work by Joanne Coates — opens at Baltic, Gateshead.

Aisling, Before having to leave home, Hoy, Middle of Somewhere, 2024

Joanne writes:

‘When I began the series Middle of Somewhere we had been through the hottest June on record in 2023.

The Spring months are here, the Equinox has passed and it’s been the wettest March on record.  I go on dog walks through our local woodland; meet neighbours, hear about another wet day, a route diverted, flooded roads blocking the way to work. These networks are how the information is spread, I don’t hear about these changes in the media, news or on the radio. Not this year.

Power and Connection on the isles, Middle of Somewhere, 2024

Land Slides off the Highest Cliffs, Middle of Somewhere, 2024

The floods, the rising sea levels, the angst inside. Photographs can fall short around such devastation and apocalyptic moments. We are living through a time of austerity, a different future for the young women in these rural communities. At 21 I had left home, I was just starting university, dreaming of what I could become, who I would meet, where I could go. The journey for me was just beginning, albeit one with twists, turns and rocky terrain. The approach I use when making this work is combining socially engaged workshops with communities, collecting sound, producing moving image work and of course photography. The work is all those elements combined to show this hidden, often misunderstood, complex issue and places. I worked with four different women around youth in rural areas. Their 21 year old thoughts differ from mine. No longer filled with hope, for these women dreams are dashed. I ask one young woman, Roz, about summer plans, she feels a strong draw towards no travel, no planes, and ethical issues.

A flooded rocket ship, pepper pot and guillotine, Middle of Somewhere, 2024

Who’s scared? Upper dales, Middle of Somewhere, 2024

Many of these people have a poetic and physical knowledge of the land.   Those causing the most damage, do they feel this personal responsibility? I create space in the gallery where discussions, worries, dreams, hope, and fears take place. What does it mean when you can’t imagine a future here? When you feel you must leave but others with more disposable income see your home as a source of radical change? What does it mean when you no longer have a place to call your own? This work came out of personal fears in a time of economic shifts. Who can afford to stay in a place like this? Whose future matters and whose does not?

Sold off Social, Middle of Somewhere, 2024

Ultimately we have more in common than what divides us. Rural areas are facing issues that will forever change their futures; climate, lack of social housing, lack of truly affordable housing, social services cut and cost of living crisis.’

Ta Ra, Middle of Somewhere, 2024


All images © Joanne Coates.

‘Middle of Somewhere’ is open from 11 May – 17 November 2024, 10am-6pm, at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Gateshead, NE8 3BA. Find out more information here.

Joanne Coates is the recipient of the 2024 iteration of The Vasseur Baltic Artists’ Award. Visit her website / follow her on Instagram here.