The Conference of the Birds was initiated by artist and curator Eva Bakkeslett (NO). The project took shape in a transdisciplinary symposium held in Engelöya, Norway, in 2018, attended by 17 artists, curators and advisors from the Nordic countries and Russia. The aim was to create a project looking 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 the symposium, The Conference of the Birds acquired its basic structure. Artists and curators Eva Bakkeslett (NO) and Ulrika Jansson (SV) have had the overall curatorial responsibility with the help of curator Ulla Taipale (FI) and researcher and curator Oleg Koefoed (DE). The symposium was supported by Nordic Culture Fund Oppstart, Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Barents Secretariat.
The curators continued honing the project through planning, research, generating funds, and coordinating collaborations between artists, researchers and local actors in the different Nests during 2019 and 2020. The scientific foundation of the project was further shaped during field trips to Finland and Russia, undertaken by the curatorial team. The aim was to become familiar with the different challenges for birds in the Nordic and Russian area through field work together with local ornithologists and bird enthusiasts.
The first field trip took place at the Hanko Bird Observatory, in Southern Finland in May 2019, where we were joined by Research Fellow, Aleksi Lehikoinen University of Helsinki, and Prof Karoliina Lummaa, University of Turku. Our second field trip was at the Ladoga Ornithological Station in South Karelia, Russia in August 2019, with ornithologists, Maria Matantseva and Sergey Simonov, from the Karelian Research Centre in Petrozavodsk, Russia. From these field trips we identified the common areas of concern and themes that formed our transdisciplinary platforms where artists, researchers and bird enthusiasts would work together.