About The Conference of the birds

“ Birds!
Look at the troubles happening in our world!
Anarchy – discontent – upheaval!
Desperate fights over territory, water, and food!
Poisoned air ! Unhappiness! ”

Farid ud-Din Attar, 1170

A brief description of the project

The Conference of the Birds is a transdisciplinary and socially engaged art and science project exploring creative ways to coexist with birds in a more than human world. Commencing with site- specific collaborations between artists and scientists it concludes with public events and exhibitions in the Nordic countries and Russia.

The general aim of The Conference of the Birds is to explore and understand what is happening to avian life and how these changes affect human cultures and lives. We want to examine and understand the shared human-avian histories and to create new lines of thought and action to ensure the continuance of our co-existence in the uncertain future. Through interdisciplinary research, public events and exhibitions we want to renew the way people think about and interact with birds.

We aim to :

  • Organise art events that move, inspire, surprise and encourage people to expand their understanding of and engagement with birds.
  • Exchange experiences across borders, recognising and addressing our common avian and environmental challenges within the Nordic countries and Russia and discover alternative approaches and practices.
  • Create informal networks in order to share and encourage sustainable ways to contribute to thriving birdlife and advance the wellbeing of individuals, populations and species.

Background

The Conference of the Birds was initiated and its foundations shaped by artist Eva Bakkeslett and drama pedagogue Heli Aaltonen . They organised an initial gathering of 15 artists, curators and advisers from the Nordic countries and Russia on Engeløya, Norway in June 2018.

The symposium had 15 invited participants from all the Nordic countries and Russia. The aim was to collectively create a project where we omitted the borders to unite and look at the commonality of cultures and challenges the birds are facing, and how artists and scientists can work together to bring these issues into public awareness. Based on the collective ideas deriving from this initial meeting, The Conference of the Birds acquired its basic structure. Three curators from Norway, Sweden and Finland : Eva Bakkeslett, Ulrika Jansson and Ulla Taipale were appointed to realise the project with the support from an advisory team of artists, researchers and bird enthusiasts.
The symposium also included a public event where several of the participants presented short performances or talks to the local public in the municipality of Steigen. (There were several news articles written about the event –include press)

The symposium was supported by Nordic Culture Fund Oppstart, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Barents Secretariat.

Research 2019

This year was a year of planning and research to continue shaping the diferent events and refine the themes and content of the Nests and the exhibition and parallel activities in the five neighbouring countries. We also selected the artists, planned and coordinate the collaboration between the artists, researchers and local actors in the different Nests and applied for funding for the different Nests. We also started working with the different exhibition platforms and tried to find an institution in one of the Nordic countries that would take on the responsibility for co-producing, hosting and moving the migrating exhibition.

We had two physical meetings for the curatorial team that took place in two of the Nest sites in finland and Russia. Here we established local contacts and planned the future collaborations. In addition we have communicated with regular skype meetings and used web- based collaboration platforms to minimise travel and costs.

The first work meeting of the curatorial team took place in Hanko Bird Observatory, Finland, joined by PhD Academy Research Fellow Aleksi Lehikoinen (University of Helsinki) and our advisor PhD Karoliina Lummaa (University of Turku). Tasks included identifying themes for the exhibition and Nests, and deciding upon artists, Nests sites to approach in the different countries and initiate contact with a main collaborating institution for the migrating exhibition.

Skype meetings and working on finding suitable artists and collaborators for the nests. Start contacting potential artists and researchers.

Second work meeting for curators in Petrozavodsk, Russia with ornithologists Maria Matantseva and Sergey Simonov at Ladoga Ornithological Station. Tasks included planning the Nest content in Russia and visiting potential exhibition venues and collaborators in S:t Petersburg while travelling through to Petrozavodsk by train and boat.

Curators contact Nest sites, artists and scientists in each country and arrange for collaborations and participation in the respective countries. Regular skype meetings are organized to keep up to date.

Bibliography

  • Becoming Animal. An Earthly Cosmology. Abram, David 2011. New York : Vintage Books.
  • The Genius of Birds. Ackerman, Jennifer, 2017. London : Penguin Press.
  • The Conference of the Birds. Attar, Farid Al-Din, (1177) 2017. W. W. Norton & Co.
  • Birds and People. With specialist research by and the support of Jonathan Elphick and John Fanshawe. Cocker, Mark & Tipling, David 2013. London: Jonathan Cape.
  • Kui trittitii! Finnish Avian Poetics. Lummaa, Karoliina 2017. Helsinki : Finnish Academy of Science and Letters.
  • Birds in Our Imagination and Experience. Mynott, Jeremy 2009. Birdscapes. Princeton & Oxford : Princeton University Press.
  • Gentle Action: Bringing Creative Change to a Turbulent World. Peat, F. David 2008. Pari : Pari Publishing.
  • Why Birds Sing. A Journey through the Mystery of Bird Song. Rothenberg, David 2005. New York : Basic Books.