It is becoming increasingly clear that data, science, facts, figures and images are not changing the collective choices we make. Yet, when we instead address our anxiety, our compulsions, our fear, our sadness, our loss, and our forgotten love of the natural wonder that exists in this world, we begin to tap into truth. Framed in this way, Axis Mundi addresses the issue of current environmental collapse and climate change through a unique and different lens: that of Ecopsychology — the study of relationships between human beings and the natural world via ecological and psychological principles. The artworks reflect three psychological responses to the state of the environment:
Environmental Melancholia is an arrested state of mourning related to overlapping events of environmental destruction. Put simply, it happens when “deaths” or losses in the environment are not properly mourned. These deaths can be many things, such as colony collapse of bees, melting glaciers, and struggling seabirds full of plastic. States of collapse are frequent and repetitive, often fading into the background as a constant, droning state of sadness in our everyday experience.
Culturally, we are encouraged to look away from discomfort, sadness, fear, frenzy, and confusion… and instead turn towards anything that will ameliorate the distress. As our disposable purchases find their ways to distant oceans and our plastic bags pile up in cupboards, the reality of our part in the decline of the world can easily be set aside — as we see fit. This behavior is Collective Social Mania, and it is the collective experience of manic tendencies, such as denial, avoidance, distraction, addiction, and consumption.
Lastly, artists in this show remind us of our Biophilia: our love for the Earth, and our connection to everything in it. Biophilia is born instinctively from our deep ancestral roots as organisms amongst other organisms, and our place in this planet’s co-evolutionary process. It is the reason we feel rested after time in the woods, comforted by growing gardens, energized by the ocean, fascinated by the behaviors of plants and animals, and humbled by stars.
Works in Axis Mundi are intended to truly make one feel… openly, wildly, honestly. They remind us that we can only become aware of our delusions if we courageously face the truth of our individual culpability. As such, the artists in this exhibition have pulled no punches. They have responded to the world they see: a world that confuses, frightens, amazes, and comforts them. Their symbolism is courageous, their inner research profound. Their gift to us is the opportunity to sit with our fear, our pain, our amazement, and our grief.
They remind us that to be truly present with what is happening in our world is to touch the point of transformation. If we can hold the horror and the beauty at the same time, we can heal.
-Regan Rosburg, Curator of Axis Mundi
The Artists and Artworks
by Sebastian Coccioba, Regan Rosburg, and ArtLab Interns (2017)
3D printed Biodegradeable Plastic (approx. 8″ x 8″ x 8″each) with corresponding framed “Letter to Adults.” Interns: Thalia Santander (Age 18), Leilani Abyeta (Age 16), Joshua Barrera-Falcon (Age 18), and Anyonymous (Age 16-18).
“All living things are made of protein. Proteins are strings of twenty different amino acids in unique sequences like a string of colored beads in a necklace. Each amino acid has its own characteristics which affect the way it interacts with neighboring amino acids in 3D space. Each amino acid has been given a representative letter to identify it from others. There are 20 known functional amino acids that life utilizes as building blocks, and there are 26 letters in the English alphabet.
For Thoughts Rewound, Regan Rosburg and I collaborated with interns of the PlatteForum ArtLab. Regan supplied the teens with questions about their take on what was happening in relation to ecology and the environment. It was her aim to give the students a voice. Also, it was important that the teens put down the keyboard and write…and write and write… in pencil. They were instructed to be honest. What was intended to be an open letter to adults resulted in an open letter to adults, each other, and their future offspring. As inheritors of the world that adults will leave behind, it was important to us that they have a voice in this exhibition, and a means of expressing their emotions around a massively complicated subject such as climate change.
Next, I took the paragraph written by the youth and removed the unnecessary characters and punctuation to reflect the twenty letters that correspond to amino acids. The resulting string of letters was fed into the supercomputer cluster known as RaptorX at the University of Chicago. The computer cluster processed the text as if it were a genuine protein sequence, and sent back the 3D model of the putative protein.
Normally, this would represent the structure and subsequent function of a natural protein, but in our case, it provided the biological representation of prose… a biopoem. Each structure is unique to the text it represents and subsequent analysis can be conducted to determine the theoretical function of this protein. By using 3D printer technology, we can render the 3D model into a biodegradable plastic as a means of giving physical form to the thoughts we sent through the supercomputer to bridge the biological with the philosophical.”
– Sebastian Coccioba
Instruments of Measure
by Carrie Crane (2017)
Georecorder: Submerged Memories and Analysis. Instrument: Found materials, hardware, wood. 17” x 13” x 7”. Painting: Acrylic and graphite on Yupo, acrylic on Plexiglas, 24” x 12” x 1.25”. 2017.
Outrage/Blame: Complicity/Shame Instrument and Analysis. Instrument: Found Materials, wire, foam, hardware, paper. 8” x 6” x 3”. 2017. Prompts: digital images, lexan. 3” x 4”. Painting: Acrylic and graphite on Yupo, acrylic on Plexiglas, hardware. 10” x 10” x 1”. 2017.
Injury Outrage Activism Instrument and Analysis. Instrument: Found materials, pyrex, wood, metal, hardware. 10” x 5” x 13”. Data: handmade book, paper, metal clip. 4” x 14”. Painting: Acrylic and graphite on Yupo, acrylic on Plexiglas. 12” x 24”. 2017.
“It is an understatement to say that determining my responsibility in environmental degradation, and then defining a course of action, is overwhelming. I thought perhaps it would help if there were a way to measure my conflicted thinking. To that end, I created a series of instruments that suggest just that. Guilt, shame, blame, denial, apathy, passion, love and action are some of the intangible metrics these instruments are designed to measure. By their creation and the accompanying “data” analysis, these instruments have enabled me to examine my place in this remarkably complex and heartbreaking situation.”
The Wounding, The Webbing, and the Collapsing
by Rebecca DiDomenico (2017)
(On wall from left to right) The Webbing. Digital Print on Acrylic, string, ento pins. 30” x 30” x 5”. 2017. The Collapsing. Maps, steel, glass, mixed media. 30” x 30” x 8”. 2017. The Wounding. Digital Print on Aluminum Czech glass beads, thread. 37” x 37” x 2”. 2017.
“Three aspects of the perilous state of our planet: the wounding, the webbing and the collapsing, certainly depict a dire reality. Yet, at the same time, all present a vision necessary for actively healing a living organism. Webbing is a unique matrix inherent in network systems; bleeding is part of the process of purification; and collapsing in on one’s self yields opportunity for regeneration. All three states imagine the multifaceted cycle of an organism’s need to purge and recreate. As in Alchemy, it is necessary to pass through various states of disrepair in order to evolve.
As a vital part of all relationships of depth, being wounded, being caught in a complex web of consequence and the urge for disappearance are all unavoidable stages of intimacy. It follows that the earth, as a living organism, is the embodiment of analogous transformational stages.
Of course, as inhabitants of a fragile and changing ecosystem, we cannot afford to ignore the warning flags of dramatic climate shifts and whole system degradation.
And as artists and activists, our work is to bear witness to the complete picture and illuminate both the devastation, and celebrate the ever-present joy that exists simultaneously.”
by Erika Blumenfeld
Pyrocystis Fusiformis. Video Documentation. Dimensions variable. Recorded while species were drawn through laboratory agitation chamber that recreates the turbulent flow field associated to ocean conditions. This piece depicts the bioexpression of bioluminescence in real time, and shows the turbulent flow field in motion.
Bioluminescent Volume 1 (Pyrocystis Fusiformis). Photographic Portfolio. Bioluminescent organisms were drawn again through the laboratory chamber to stimulate the organism’s luminescent response. Using a low concentration of organisms at a low flow rate a single flash event was recorded, depicting the luminescent expression of individual organisms.
Erika Blumenfeld depicts the wondrous bioluminescent marine phytoplankton that glows in our oceans. Collaborating with Marine Biologist Dr. Michael Latz at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2001 and again in 2011, Blumenfeld documented these organisms to activate a dialog about our natural environment and our relationship to it.
Bioluminescence – living light – is widespread in the oceans of the world. Light emission is produced because of a chemical reaction involving the oxidation of a substrate molecule called luciferin. In the deep sea, where sunlight is absent, more than 90% of organisms are bioluminescent. In coastal regions, the primary source of bioluminescent is dinoflagellates, single-celled organisms that are common members of the phytoplankton group.
In her Bioluminescence Series, artist Erika Blumenfeld depicts the wondrous bioluminescent marine phytoplankton that glows in our oceans. Collaborating with Marine Biologist Dr. Michael Latz at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in 2001 and again in 2011 Blumenfeld documented these organisms to activate a dialog about our natural environment and our relationship Bioluminescence– living light –is widespread in the oceans of the world. Light emission is produced because of a chemical reaction involving the oxidation of a substrate molecule called luciferin. In the deep sea, where sunlight is absent, more than 90% of organisms are bioluminescent. In coastal regions, the primary source of bioluminescence is dinoflagellates, single-celled microscopic organisms that are common members of the phytoplankton group.
Despite the fact that phytoplankton are mostly microscopic and seemingly disconnected from our daily experience, phytoplankton produce approximately 50-85% of the air we breathe, making them a crucial part of each of our lives, as well as essential to the Earth’s respiratory system. As our industries cause increased toxification of Earth’s water systems, and as anthropogenic climate disruption cause ocean temperature fluctuations and increased acidification, scientific studies show phytoplankton are at risk, with some studies indicating population decline of up to 40 percent. Losing populations of phytoplankton is like losing forests, and we need both in order to sustain life.
In This Twilight Sleep
by Ren Adams (2017)
In This Twilight Sleep. Television, chair, table, viewfinders, looping video. Dimensions variable. 2017.
“In This Twilight Sleep is a multimedia installation that addresses our inability to process human-induced environmental calamity. Unable to mourn the damage we’ve inflicted, we turn to media for escape—but that route is haunted. Television is an accidental eyewitness to human impact; a database of environments ‘caught’ tangentially on tape. An archive of our former (changing) landscape exists within the very media we use for avoidance. My multi-episode ‘prime-time’ block suggests even the recorded environments are ruined and fading. Using experimental photography and glitch to emphasize the partially preserved and the mostly lost, my videos feature reanimated, mutated stills which appropriate life, after the environment has died. Looping moments move from melancholia to mania. Paired with View-Master toys that serve as souvenirs of a lost landscape; ruin and absence become the only remaining commodity. Together, they are lamentations—a virtual tourism of a seemingly unstoppable, paralytic end.”
by Pedro Barrios and Jaime Molina (2017)
Post Quietus. Outdoor Mural on Temple Building. 17’ x 12”. 2017.
Jaime and Pedro began their collaborative work in 2013. Their blended styles strive to narrate a tale by using vibrant hues, folkloric imagery, and intricate patterns. The work “Post Quietus” tells a story of an apocalyptic period, while leaving a sense of hope for a new beginning.
House and Home
by Susan Hopp (2017)
House and Home. Photographic Prints. 95” x 18”. 2017.
“House and Home is constructed from appropriated Instagram photos. By looking through the lens of another’s experience on social media, my fascination with the distracting alternative world begins. Within this distracting alternative world, mania becomes obsession. This piece responds to my obsession with images of place, and with place as an internal or external concept: where am I/where are we?”
Untouched, Kamilo Beach, Hawaii
and Albatross (the film)
by Chris Jordan (2016, 2017)
Untouched, Kamilo Beach, Hawaii. Photographic print. 55” x 45”. 2017.
“This photograph was made on Kamilo Beach on the southernmost point of the big island of Hawai’i. Kamilo beach is covered several inches deep in micro plastic, and more washes up with every incoming wave. I pulled back the plastic to reveal the sand underneath, leaving a 1-meter diameter section ‘untouched.’ ”
by Viviane Le Courtois (2017)
Dirt Soup. Mixed media with plastic bags, plastic bottle caps. Dimensions variable. 2017.
“This installation consists of interactions between strangers around soup in a sculptural outdoor environment created from plastic waste. The soup of locally grown ingredients served in homemade clay bowls facilitates conversation. Overwhelmed by social media and the news over the last year, everyone is distracted, stressed and powerless. While gathering in person, creating together, sharing resources and eating soup, people get off their smart phones, get to know each other, and reflect on small changes they can make daily. The piece highlights collective procrastination and waste while engaging people in a positive and active participation across cultures and beliefs. The goal is to transform mind numbing activities into purposeful exercises for change, to obsessively create meaningful settings and conversations for a better world. A memorable experience can sculpt people’s lifestyles and interactions.”
-Viviane Le Courtois
A Collective Dream
by Suchitra Mattai (2017)
A Collective Dream. Acrylic, found brooches, found doilies, vinyl. 168” x 48’’. 2017.
“I am interested in how the process of creating becomes a “supplement”—both in the sense of a replacement and a treatment–for the act of consuming. Although obsessive repetitive processes–whether domestic, craft-based, or otherwise– can serve as a means of coping in the face of climate change and destruction, one could argue that it also resembles the very obsessive activity of acquiring and discarding that has fueled environmental devastation in the first place. My own drawing mimics the intricately crocheted doilies of the past by drawing attention to the hand, the biological symbol of our humanity’s destructive and creative powers. Connecting the past with the present is an equally important part of my artistic practice. It is through the revisiting of this cultural history and its material byproducts that we can develop new possibilities for making and doing—so that we can act creatively without repeating the mistakes of the past or the present. We need to acknowledge that our scientific and cultural attitudes are inextricable intertwined as we plot out a meaningful and plausible plan for the future.”
by Lauri Lynnxe Murphy (2017)
Post Consumer. Laminated plastic bags, frame. 40” x 40”. 2017.
“The stratification of incomes and growing disparities in wealth around the country point to two cultures: the rich and the poor (or as they are coded in the art world: the high and the low). At the high end, we have abstract painting – formerly a symbol of the avant-garde, reduced by the market to an aspirational symbol of wealth in a minimalistic lifestyle catalog. At the low end, the common single-use plastic bag, the most ubiquitous reminder of consumerism and the mindless wastefulness of late-stage capitalism, used to shuttle cheap consumer goods nearly as disposable as the bags themselves. They are two symptoms of the same disease: the insatiable desire the world has for consuming goods, whether high-end indicators of status or cheap Chinese fare from the dollar store. Even with the ends being different, the drive is the same.
This “painting” creates a juxtaposition of the high and the low, mimicking abstraction by mashing up the logos and symbols on plastic bags. They are a simulacrum of painting, with no paint involved, a subtle reminder that both plastic and paint have petroleum at their root.”
-Lauri Lynnxe Murphy
by Lewis Neeff (2017)
Narcissus Flux. Mixed media mirror, liquid metal, pump, electronics. 2017.
“The reflected world is the conquest of calm. It is a superb creation that requires only inaction.” -Gaston Bachelard
“The modern world would have us look at ourselves in the calm of a static mirror, casting back the brightly lit reflections of heavily curated static selves, but even our most idealized notions about ourselves cannot be separated from the material from where they were conceived: we are like water and our image of ourselves must be like water. Without the fluid interference of our upset world, we are doomed to stare into our own reflection until death.
Narcissus Flux is a freestanding liquid metal mirror come window, running on an endless cycle, filling and draining. It invites the viewer to step outside the egotistical narcissism onset by the static imagery of the digital mirror and witness the birth of their image through turbulence, reflect in stillness, and dissolve in death, promising rebirth.”
by Ron Pollard (2017)
Extruded Monsters. Printed photograph on panel, covered sparingly with resin, hung on a rough, temporary wall. Nine panels, each 7” x 96”. 2017. Upper left to lower right; Human Ken Doll Rodrigo Alves, President Donald Trump, Jay Sekulo, Kellyanne Conway, Vladimir Putin, Callista Gingrich, Sheldon Adelson, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“In his book, Sapiens: A Brief history of Humankind, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari writes about the human race and our ability to tell each other stories, to share collective fictions, and to believe in collective myths and legends. These are the stories that have made human civilization possible. According to Harari, things like laws, religion, or even money and art, are truly only constructs of our collective imaginations.
Now as the west has entered a period of self-doubt, prompted by things like the terrorist attacks of 911, the Iraq war and the 2008 financial crisis. A hostile outside power is now making a concerted effort to make us stop believing in our collective story. Russia is doing this by backing political monsters that are opposed to Western Liberalism — it’s doing it by spreading corruption and networks of influence. These monsters are, essentially, attempting to roll back the enlightenment.”
– Ron Pollard
by Kelly Norman (2015)
Petroleum Distillates. Automotive paint on sublimated snow, plexiglass boxes. Each 9” x 9” x 9”. 2014. Grid Display: Xanthomendoza mendozae (Orange Lichen), Physconia pulverulenta (Frosted Lichen), Peltigera canina (Felt Lichen), Tholurna dissimilis (Urn Lichen), Haematomma vulgare (Bloodstain Lichen), Sphaerophorus coralloides (Ball Lichen), Cetrelia cetrarioides (Giant Sheild Lichen), Cornicularia normoerica (Brittle Lichen), and Catapyrenium cinereum (Earth Lichen).
Museum Vitrines I and II. Assemblage of Artifacts. Dimensions Variable. 2014 – Ongoing.
Admission of Guilt. Petroleum distillate samples, petri dish, bag, certificate of authenticity, admission of guilt form. Dimensions variable. 2014.
“We are changing the living landscape in a way that is unprecedented in history. Can we envision such different futures, so that we avoid our myopic past?” – Kelly Norman
Biophilia, melancholia….this is difficult to separate with respect to Kelly Norman’s work. Beyond DNA, nature in the end overtakes all. Kelly Norman, the environmentalist of the dopamine collective™ works with environmentally toxic products to bring awareness to the destruction we cause to the Earth. Her works in the past have been an exploration of the interaction of humans with the natural world; often a playful satire on role reversal and the quest for energy. Much of her latest inquiry involves subjecting the planet to extremely toxic media in the hope that nature will overtake these chemical compounds and make them into something beautiful. When asked why she uses a medium that goes against her very existence, she replies: “We are changing the living landscape in a way that is unprecedented in history. Can we envision such different futures, so that we avoid our myopic past?” Currently, she is struggling to finish a body of work in the far North, this may be the last year she can produce these works for many reasons. A few of which include: global warming (extreme cold is required for the work to be formed); the difficulty finding toxic oil automotive paint (which is a good change); the increasing cost of travel to outposts of the north.
Owl in a Tree
by Lori Owicz (2017)
Owl In a Tree. Found copper, brass, wire, metal scraps, and assorted bits. 60” x 36”. 2017.
“Created over eight months, Owl In a Tree is one of my largest and most detailed assemblages created completely from repurposed and found items. I collect my materials one by one, seeing the potential of each piece, excited to give something tossed away a new sense of purpose. The sculpture has more than 1000 copper and breass feathers that I cut and sewed together with copper wire. She sits atop a percolator, on a base comprised of miscellaneous items, including the scrap metal cuttings stripped from feathers and plastic stripped from copper wire.”
by Tarah Rhoda (2017)
Spinach, ethanol, IV bag, volumetric flask, syringe, UV light, wood pedestal, metal frame. Dimensions variable. 2017.
“Perhaps one of the most remarkable alliances between humans and plants is the correlation between photosynthesis and respiration. These two interdependent processes are essential to all life, bonding the survival of animals and plants to each other. In the human body this metabolic exchange occurs in red blood cells, as oxygen binds to hemoglobin, a red-pigmented protein containing iron that circulates oxygen throughout the body’s tissues and returns the carbon dioxide to the lungs to be released. Plants, however, compliment this living task by performing the inverse. Photosynthesis relies on chlorophyll, a green pigment in the plant’s chloroplast that captures light and harnesses its energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose. Not only is the resulting simple sugar fuel for the plant to grow, but also provides the oxygen we depend on as a byproduct of this process.
Hemoglobin and chlorophyll are strikingly similar, they even mirror one another down to the molecular level. A particularly astonishing phenomenon of the chlorophyll molecule is it’s light absorption property when isolated from the plant’s chloroplast. When chlorophyll is suspended in an alcohol solution and exposed to UV light it releases the energy it was unable to transfer to the rest of the plant as waste. This discharge takes the form of fluorescence, glowing red like blood.”
by Eileen Roscina Richardson (2017)
Wander/Wonder. Outdoor Installation. Dimensions Variable. 2017.
“I grew a labyrinth from sunflowers. A labyrinth has an unambiguous route to the center and back and presents no navigational challenge, thus the mind is freed from decision making and the very act of walking becomes therapeutic. I chose sunflowers because they clearly exhibit the phenomenon of phototropism – responsiveness to light – a quality shared by humans, deeply rooted in our DNA. Participants can observe the beauty of the sunflowers in their varying stages of development or decay and reflect, remember, grieve, pray or meditate while walking the path. By conducting such a perambulation, this ritual becomes symbolic of a pilgrimage to the center, to the Axis Mundi.”
-Eileen Roscina Richardson
by Regan Rosburg (2017)
Omega. Virgin & recycled plastic, 3.2 tons of nurdles, wasp nests, insects, resin, mixed media. Dimensions variable. 2017. Alpha. Waste products generated making Omega, museum vitrine. 36” x 34” x 36”. 2017.
“Worldwide, human beings are buying 20,000 plastic bottles of water per second. Like so many things today, the action of purchasing this object is a flabby reflex, born from cultural laziness and an un-checked allegiance to the marketed facade of “convenience.” Our baseline has shifted. We have forgotten the foresight of only a few generations ago, when leaving the house meant either waiting for water, drinking it from a fountain or restaurant, or carrying your own vessel — filled from the tap. Today, the ubiquity of plastic is like a network of sinuous tendons that has woven itself into everything, hiding in plain sight.
Omega wedges itself between individual culpability and abstract statistics. A journey through the numbers must be made — a veritable barefoot walk into the heart of darkness. I ask each viewer to relinquish not only their shoes and socks, but also their phones. Without the hindrance of technology, one can be fully present. Furthermore, if one pellet equals one bottle, I request that the viewer carry two tablespoons of pellets, equal to what the average American man, woman and child consumes in one year. Unfortunately, less than half of all bottles are recycled. Omega sits in an ocean of 3.2 tons of pellets. The moment you set foot in the pellets, it represents all of the global bottle purchases that will be made in the next 73 minutes.
This piece was made in collaboration with Hi-Tec Plastics in Aurora, CO, who donated 3.2 tons of pellets, as well as extruded purged HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) for the sculpture’s scaffolding and floor ribbons. Hi-Tec’s knowledgeable staff also fitted a specially made dye to their machine so that we could pour melted HDPE into my high-temperature molds, producing twenty thicker recycled wings.
Alpha contains the waste products created during the production of Omega. Sorted, layered and stacked inside a museum vitrine, the collective material weighs 150 pounds. It was important to show the massive amounts of material that normally would be discarded into the dumpster. As an artist commenting on the environment, I believe it is important to implicate my own contribution to global waste in my work. I practice this kind of honest self-disclosure with the intention of inspiring transparency in others. Honest appraisal of individual actions is needed before solutions can be implemented.”
Tribute to Edison II
by Darya Warner (2017)
Tribute to Edison II. Live Bioluminescent Algae (Pyrocystis Fusiformis), LED lights, light bulbs, laser cut Plexiglas sculptures, fabric, cooling system. Dimensions variable. 2017.
Darya Warner’s work centers around the concept of the “Seventh Generation Principle,” based on an ancient Iroquois philosophy. When making decisions about our energy water and resources, the principle is a way of ensuring that those decisions are sustainable for seven generations in the future. It is based, to Darya’s understanding, on a deep spiritual connection (Biophilia) between humans and Earth’s Biota. Substituting non-living material with living matter raises ethical questions regarding the “application” of living organisms. What are the consequences and how do we view these relationships?
Tribute to Edison II exemplifies a respectful collaboration between the organism and the mindful creating of the organism’s optimal environment. It is an interactive installation comprised of suspended light bulbs filled with bioluminescent algae, Pyrocystis Fusiformis (found in warm coastal waters). The bulbs are attached to laser cutouts, which depict the enlarged sculptural replicas of the microscopic single celled Pyrocystis Fusiformis.
This work is a collaboration of life between the organisms and the viewer. One of the key factors of the algae’s healthy well-being is movement of their environment. Thus, each light bulb serves as a small aquarium hosting the algae. The viewer interacts with the dinoflagellates by gently touching the sculpture, triggering a slow spiral motion of the water in the light bulb. This mimics ocean movement, which stimulates the organisms to emit blue light.
The plankton light cycle (circadian rhythm) was altered by Darya so that the viewer could experience the artwork “in action” during the daylight hours. At the end of the show, the algae will find a new home in Denver, along with enough food and instructions for care.
The Flying Gardens of Maybe
by Andrew Yang (2012 – present)
The Flying Gardens of Maybe. Individually handmade clay pots, soil, seeds from fallen songbirds, postcards, framed photographic prints, birdseed. Dimensions variable. 2012 to Ongoing.
“Flowering plants hustle their seeds throughout the landscape by way of animal partners who desire their fruit, as well as the seeds they contain. Birds can eat and pass seeds from a variety of species within a given day, acting as winged couriers for future generations of plants. However, millions of birds die every year when they collide with buildings whose windows mirror the surroundings and create a fatal illusion of space, or are attracted to building lights without seeing the impermeable glass at night. If birds die with the seeds that they carry, then those seeds become ends without means, orphaned from their living vehicles. In a vast ecology of interruption, millions of seeds likely never get a chance to try their luck at sprouting.
In Chicago, birthplace of the “skyscraper,” hundreds of birds collide with buildings on a daily basis. The Chicago Bird Collision Monitors (CBCM) work as an all-volunteer group that retrieve fallen birds waylaided by our growing architectural ambitions. Dead birds are brought to the Field Museum of Natural History where they are cataloged, skinned, and cleaned at the Bird Lab – the feathers and skeletons becoming part of a comprehensive archive of avian demise. The guts of these birds, however, are usually thrown away together with their stores of seeds – cornucopias of trees, flowers, and shrubs that could be. With the help of emeritus collections manager, David Willard, I glean the seeds by dissecting them out of the bird stomachs. The seeds from each individual bird become part of a growing collection of plant-possibility spanning a variety of fruit and seed eating species – from sparrows to thrushes, robins to grosbeaks. For each kind of bird a ceramic stoneware pot is made by hand – a makeshift surrogate for the stomach from which the seeds were liberated, the pot is a new vessel in which the seeds are given a chance to germinate; each pot is glazed in a style drawn from the coloration and feathering of the particular species of bird within which the seeds were found.”
Opening Night / Curatorial Talk