Tell it to the Birds, an interactive sculptural work by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) artist-in-residence Jenny Kendler, is an imaginative attempt to bridge the experiential gap between human and animal minds.
Participants visiting NRDC’s booth at EXPO Chicago will enter into a dwelling-like dome, the form of which suggests both animal-built structures and utopian architectural forms. Within the darkened, private interior, each person is invited to ‘tell it to the birds‘ — to confess something to the natural world, which they feel other people or the human world might not understand. A specially designed computer program immediately “translates” the confession into birdsong that is played both inside and outside the structure, but only the speaker knows the true meaning of their birdsong. The birds represented in the project will depict real-life birds threatened by energy projects, climate change, and other environmental hazards.
Taking cues from eco-phenomenology and biosemiotics, Kendler suggests that, while we may never be able to cross into experiencing the mind of a bird or animal, by experiencing our own words spoken in the voice of these beautiful others, a tenuous thread of connection is extended across that gap.
The booth walls surrounding the nest-like structure will be covered in artist designed lichen wallpaper, creating an immersive environment for viewers waiting to enter the structure. Hidden within the wallpaper will be sculptural representations of the birds whose songs are echoing throughout the booth. Viewers will be invited to spend time in the exhibit and revisit repeatedly throughout the course of the fair, as no one experience in the structure will be the same. To help visitors navigate the exhibit, NRDC will be distributing a “Field Guide.” Inspired by vintage birding guides, this art print will depict all the birds featured in the exhibit, along with information about what they look like, where they live, and the environmental issues threatening their populations.
EXPO Chicago THE INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION OF CONTEMPORARY & MODERN ART | September 18–21, 2014 at NAVY PIER