Inspired by Brancusi’s infamous “Bird In Space”, @birds_without_space represents the 9 most “evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered” avian species in the world due to human-related habitat loss. (You can check out edgeofexistence.org for their complete list of species). The accompanying video piece seeks to explore the banality of such ecological horrors by flattening the traditional sculpture into a 3D render synthesizing some the largest contributors of habitat loss for these birds.
The images and video in the piece are all cropped at 4x5 ratio and rotated 90 degrees which maximizes the amount of space media can take up on Instagram. In choosing Instagram as the platform and framing the piece in this way I hope to provide these birds with the maximum amount of virtual space where they can repopulate symbolically through the sharing of their image. By appropriating the medium of hyper-real renderings most often used in architecture/realty and advertising, I hope to subvert these practices which allow profiting from the exploitation of land.
When discussing ecological horrors such as the loss of species I find the language of the Sublime and the Real to help express the ineffable magnitude of such losses. In “The Return of the Real” Hal Foster discusses techniques such as illusionism, gaze, and repetition which artists such as Gober, Sherman, and Warhol, respectively, have used in order to focus their art upon the Real.
The scene takes place in an old-fashioned office and this recreation of a hyper-real office space was motivated Foster’s comment that “illusionism [for Gober] is employed not to cover up the real with simulacral surfaces but to uncover it in uncanny things”. Living in contemporary American society makes participating in our economy of environmental havoc inevitable; we are constantly surrounded by the disastrously mundane things such as timber, meat, and electricity. The POV camera was chosen to show this trapped subject, browsing Instagram, as self-surveying, “not in phenomenological immanence (I see myself seeing myself) but in psychological estrangement (I am not what I imagined myself to be)”.
The extremely nontraumatic and docile act of scrolling through Instagram is repeated in a choppy loop, ad infinitum, like a reversal of Warhol’s famous “Death and Disaster” series. Here our collective trauma is not a visible horror, but a mass complacency due to the filtering of horror through the hyper-real lens of media. It feels as if the impending mass extinction “will not occur”. We have seen too many “gruesome picture[s] over and over again”, and now they “don’t really have any effect”. Thus, this complacent scrolling “must be repeated” but only serves to remind us of the disasters we are ignoring. This is where Foster claims “the Real ruptures the screen of repetition” and it is the now the subject that is “touched by an image”.
Special thanks to Sarah, Nicole, and Josh for their input.