Bird Suspended, 2014, (detail) video, pillow, feathers, h.8’ x w.5’ x d.4’
Bird Suspended, is directly linked to an experience that occurred when I was in first grade. I came home to find my mother staring out the window with tears in her eyes. She explained sadly how she had dusted Grandma’s favorite rose bushes with insecticide earlier in the day to control an infestation of aphids. After spraying the insects, my mother observed a Jenny Wren feasting and chirping happily at the “great find” of the insect remnants. The connection, between her action and subsequent harm to the bird, was simple and clear.
Recently a group of students approached me with a freshly killed American Robin. The Robin strangled in filament that had been left in the trees from a student’s art installation. I transformed the Robin and its memory by encasing it in a soft skin-like plastic, placing the human touch over its beautiful form . The Robin became the catalyst to address the way human careless behavior results in the detriment of other species. In the installation, a pillow is a placeholder for humans. The pillow is overstuffed with down feathers, which spill out of a “slit” in the back. The slit is a rupture, with the feathers overflowing; it becomes a metaphor for human wastefulness. The accompanying video projected onto the pillow depicts the dead transformed American Robin, hanging from its feet, turning in the wind. The sound of a Robin singing is overlaid with a mechanical squeaking, to insert the voice of industrial humanity. The color in the video was manipulated for somberness, but as the bird turns, suddenly, there is a flash of light. The video conveys both the beauty and the horror, and both the spirit and the corpus of the bird. The result tells a story of discovery, absurdity, and loss. Through that intersection, I replayed the experience, as my mother had, that environmental actions have consequences.