The context for this work is the climate emergency, that is causing mass extinction across species that could also include our own.
My way into this vast and tricky arena, is to ask the question: what if extinction is not to be feared? And in answer to this, to imagine having agency in the face of collapse.
To set up a scenario for exploring this question, I have imagined an alternative evolutionary path in which birds and humans were not set 100million years apart. And in this space, created an imaginary species of bird-sized, bird-like humans - part connected to us and part beyond ourselves.
I know it is possible to experience grace and joy in the midst of tragedy and loss. I know it is possible to create islands of sanity in the midst of wildly disruptive seas.
Margaret J. Wheatley, Who Do We Choose To Be?
The animal, what a word! Animal is a word that men have given themselves the right to give. These humans are found giving it to themselves, this word, but as if they had received it as an inheritance.
Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am.
There are 4 key elements in the installation:
The human-bird figures, and the ground they emerge from, are modelled in dark wax as if they had been mummified in a peat bog and only just discovered.
These beings sit on an island (of sanity perhaps), and unfold in their gestures as they rise to its peak, and the perches and space above. As they develop, they also take on more bird-like characteristics – of longer humerus, radius, ulna and phalanges, and a deeper sternum needed for flight, as well as feathers.
2 video projection
The backdrop projection cycles through the creation and extinction narrative of this species, played out in overlaid shadows of the human-birds as they rise and take to flight and then reduce to a solitary flying being, the last of the species.
The drone sounds that create this humming backdrop include the French Philosopher Jacques Derrida, whose words are slowed down beyond recognition, giving texture rather than comprehension. (He is also quoted on the wall).
Poignantly, at the end of the 5 minute cycle, you here the last call of the last Kaoui bird, now extinct, hopefully but futilely calling for a mate.
Essence of oak moss, birch tar, cade and black pepper create a scent of the earth in the room.