For the Birds : an immersive night time walk into a wild, avian landscape. A group show with artists Jony Easterby, Kathy Hinde, Dark Spark, Esther Tew and Ulf Mark Pederson Premiered at the stunning RSPB reserve Ynys-hir in mid Wales, during October 2014, and showcased at Otari Wilton’s Bush, Wellington for the New Zealand Festival in March 2016. The show continues to tour.
For the Birds invited a visiting public on a meditative and immersive guided journey through the wild aviarian landscape of Ynys-hir during four night time events from dusk until dark in late Autumn 2014. The Reserve was transformed by a series of bespoke light and sound installations. As transient and light as the birds themselves, these installations were created using low cost, low power equipment suitable for remote places, such as low energy lighting and small scale multi-speaker systems, low volt micro processors, electro-acoustic performances, projections and kinetic sculpture.
Birds offer human imagination mystery and beauty, of other lands, other ways of being, of resilience, of renewal. They are sign-bearers, omens. Twitter gives a new spin to the medieval alchemists’ language of birds, which translated what was divine and of the air into the earth of humanity and the mundane. As the huge global industry of garden-bird nurture, led by the RSPB in the UK testifies, their presence makes us feel good. But what about when we interact with birds directly and face their physical and ecological reality? What important messages do they offer in creating a home that affirms all life for a sustainable future? And what inspiration and strength can we draw?
Photos of the installations in order of appearance on the walk. All photographs by Giles W Bennett.
Origami Cranes by Kathy Hinde: 15 mechanised origami-style stainless steel cranes with slowly flapping wings make their way through a stand of welsh oaks. Their overlapping shadows are thrown onto the ancient cliff behind. Accompanied by a field recordings of Eurasian Cranes.
Kingfisher by Dark Spark/Mark Anderson: A dart of blue light propels its way 100 metres through the tall grasses, accompanied by a mysterious slowed down recording of a kingfisher… can be spotted every 2 or 3 minutes.
Lapwing Display by Jony Easterby: Life size bird outlines of lapwings in various stages of flight during a mating display; each of these has been drawn in electroluminescent wire to form an animation, which moves in an undulating loop.
Route lighting by Esther Tew and Ulf Mark Pedersen
Parliament of the Crows by Pippa Taylor and Jony Easterby: A collection of 40 wooden black crows are spread over an area of grass with fading LED shadows. Crow calls from multiple sound sources.
Birdhouse Flock by Jony Easterby: 16 wooden houses/bird boxes, mounted on poles with built in speakers loaded with nightingale song are topped wind vanes made from goose feathers. Each turn of the feather vane plays a fragment of nightingale song, varying in duration following the dynamics of the wind. The soundscape created is a cut up digitised twitter of electronic glitches mixed with the counterpoint of sweet nightingale song.
32 Tweets by Jony Easterby: 32 small speakers, mounted in the branches of a holly tree, are loaded with recordings of UK coastal bird calls and song. On activation, each speaker causes a green LED to light. The speakers are sequenced, fragmented and arranged through custom built software programmed by Matthew Olden aka “I am the mighty jungulator”.
Fireflies by Dark Spark/Mark Anderson: Ten micro motors fitted with propellors and small amber LED bulbs suspended by long fibreglass poles fly in random circles over the surface of a pond creating enigmatic shapes in the darkness.
Cuckoo Ensemble by Jony Easterby: A collection of nine cuckoo whistle mechanisms activated by electric motors, housed in brass cage structures and spread out along 100m of wetland boardwalk. Each motor turns a twin cam mechanism that plays the interval of the CUK-OO cuckoo call. Each motor is set to a different speed causing a spatial and aural field of random call and response.
Cicader Telegraph by Dark Spark/Mark Anderson: Forty eight solenoids attached to tuned tube resonators have been intricately sequenced into a seamless sound and light instrument, as bright LEDs illuminate standing dead birch trees on every strike of the solenoid. The effect at times resembles fork lightning.
Sward Scan by Jony Easterby: A powerful green Laser paints lines across the wetland grasses creating an incredible pattern of slowly moving light. The scanning creates tens of thousands of dynamic shifting points of light on the wind blown grass.
VOGELSTIMMENIMITATOR Helmut Wolfertstetter, Video by Kathy Hinde: Helmut Wolfertstetter, the Bavarian bird imitator performs an incredible repertoire of farmland bird song, much to the delight of the audience.
Cage Shadows by Jony Easterby: Vintage wooden bird cages with sharp focussed Blue, Red and Green lights create a mesmerising, constantly changing pattern of light and shadow onto a framed back projection.
Swallows by Dark Spark / Helen Ingham: 18 postcard sized electro-luminescent images of sillouetted swallows in flight. Accompanied by swallow recordings.
Pretty Polly by Dark Spark / Mark Anderson: Pretty Polly creates an insane dialogue between parrots imitating humans, whilst two large circular mirrors are percussed intermittently by large mechanised beaks. Three metal bird cages pulse slowly with light and shadow.
Piano Migrations by Kathy Hinde: The inside of an old upright piano, is recycled into a kinetic sound sculpture. Videos of birds are projected directly onto the piano to provide an ever-changing musical score. The movement of the birds trigger small machines to twitch and flutter on the piano strings. In this work, nature controls machines to create delicate music.
Music Box Migrations by Kathy Hinde and Matthew Olden: Two motor controlled, winding music boxes with waxed paper scrolls following a visual score of birds flying. Each one is processed through Matthew Olden’s ‘Jungulator’ software to create a constantly shifting improvised call and response between the music boxes and their echoes.
Cello to a Nightingale, Concieved by Kathy Hinde & Jony Easterby. Dubplates of nightingale field recordings from the garden of the cellist Beatrice Harrison who made the first ever live outside broadcast in 1924 are played on an old record player. A cellist sits opposite the record player using the original tunes played by Beatrice Harrison as a basis for improvisation with the nightingale sound. Cellists: Nick Bard and Marta Rychter
Twittering Machine by Kathy Hinde: 14 mechanised swanee whistles play from a computer controlled pump system, with individual motors to move the arm and change the pitch. Each whistle is mounted individually onto a tree / branch and forms a playful bird-imitation ensemble.
Feather turns 2 by Jony Easterby: Two motors spinning at different speeds mounted with white goose feathers pluck amplified strings held under tension by egg shaped boulders and fibreglass bows.
Bird Collison Imprints by Jony Easterby in collaboration with Lindsey Colbourne and Gwillum Morrus: Eight old windows are etched with traced images of birds that have collided with windows, leaving their imprints of oils and dust behind. Each window is suddenly lit alongside the sound of the collision, the light the fading with the sound. In the background a blackbird sings its lilts and tempo tracked and accompanied by a unique rendition of the recital of T. Gwynn Jones’ Ynys Afallon hir a thoddeidiau, a Welsh romantic poem which contrasts the theme of the land of eternal youth and the abruptness of the birds’ death on impact with glass.
For the Birds was a pilot multi partner project led by artist Jony Easterby, in collaboration with RSPB Ynys-hir with development support from National Theatre Wales, Arts Council Wales, and Abersytwyth Arts Center provided front of house and ticketing support.