Car horns. Mobile phone rings. Traffic crossing signals. The tweets and chirps of urban birds sound very different than those of their country cousins. These sounds facilitate and in some ways control humans as we move and find our way through the city. This lead Winnipeg electronic media artist Erika Lincoln to consider what the effects of these communication sounds, that are used solely by humans, have on animals living in our shared environment. The answer was not far off. While observing a flock of European Starlings that regularly visit the back lane of her home she noticed that the birds have incorporated the electronic sounds of life in the city into their repertoire of songs creating a hybird call of sorts.
She furthered her examination by focusing on the adaptive behaviours of urban birds. In addition to the sounds, she noticed how some birds collect discarded human-made materials and incorporate them into their nests or utilize built structures as their roosting sites. Lincoln became fascinated by how the by-products of the human technological culture were intersecting with the natural everyday “normal” existence of birds. This research has culminated in four new works which are premiered here at the WAG.
The two central pieces are Singing Condition I & II. Part I consists of a flock of mechanical birds which produce sounds based on their moving parts. Each bird opens and closes its beak, “singing” to the others by the action of a motor randomly levering their beaks. Part II features a mechanism that spins nests based on movements made by visitors in the exhibition space. Each nest incorporates plastics, yarns, and bits of metal, mimicking Lincoln’s own observations of birds using different types of man-made materials to build their nests. A set of nests will be created over the run of the exhibition and displayed in the space, providing a visual trace of visitors’ involvement.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery acknowledges the support of the Manitoba Arts Council, Long and McQuade, Solarbotics, and Tip Top Electronic Supply.