Zebra Finches Rock the Joint


Image: from here to ear (detail), 2007. Photograph : Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. © Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. Courtesy Galerie Xippas

The latest exhibition at the Barbican art space, The Curve, comprises of electric guitars and percussion symbols furnishing a man-made desert of sand and shrubs. Sounding perfectly feasible so far? Fairly ordinary in fact in the context of the off the wall pieces we have come to expect of modern art today. The fact that this installation is also an aviary, home to a flock of tiny zebra finches flying freely amongst spectators is where things start to get interesting.

Rocking robin is old news, 2010 is all about electric guitar playing finches! As the birds go about their natural daily routine’s, flying, feeding and perching, they inevitably interact with the musical equipment, all of which is wired up to high volume speakers. The result – the birdies make music! The sounds are completely sporadic, depending on the bird’s whims, sometimes there’s a silent lull and then a flurry of wings will result in a melodic outburst.

The installment is the work of French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, a professionally trained musician and composer. Boursier-Mougenot creates works by drawing on the rhythms of daily life to produce sound in unexpected ways. He’s certainly achieved that in this installment at The Curve.

The resulting musical sounds combined with the gentle chirruping of the finches are really quite mesmerising. The birds are also stunningly beautiful, so tiny and perfectly formed with the most intricate patterns and incredible colors, they act as an innocent reminder of the beauty of nature – a beauty that cannot be replicated in art and is absolutely second to none. Watching the birds it easy to forget that this is meant to be a piece of art work, as the real pleasure is far more comparable to that derived from a trip to the zoo. It’s totally uplifting, beautiful and wonderful.

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