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! ”
Attar, Farid Al-Din, (1177)

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 collaboration with Russia is put on hold due to the regulations from our funders.

The project is inspired by the epic poem “The Conference of the Birds” (1170) by the Persian poet Farid ud-Din Attar where the birds of the world gather to bring attention to many of the problems affecting birds’ lives and our lives still to this day. Sadly we are currently witnessing alarming declines of bird populations and expecting species extinctions due to climate change and other environmental problems. The stories behind the statistics, how birds in certain places are affected by loss of habitat, invasive species, pesticides and climate change can help us grasp and make these abstract problems we are all facing more tangible and emotionally touching. Migrating birds show us that the problems are beyond borders, disciplines and species and so are the solutions. 

Marjakari 2020, Photo: Jan Eerala
Marjakari 2020. Photo: Jan Eerala

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 are:

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

The Conference of the Birds is initiated by artist and curator Eva Bakkeslett (NO) and curated together with artist Ulrika Jansson (SV), curator Ulla Taipale (FI) and researcher/co-curator Oleg Koefoed (DE). The project took shape in a symposium held on Engelöya, Norway, in 2018 where 17 participants from 5 different countries across disciplines met. The Conference of the Birds and is planned to continue until 2023.