Andefågeln – Becoming Spirit Bird

Participatory performance transforming bodies to the inner spirit bird

As a part of the event The city with a bird perspective / Staden med ett fågelperspektiv the performance artist Pernilla Ljungkvist conducted the participatory performance titled Andefågeln – Becoming Spirit Bird, in which the audience, arranged in a plow formation reminiscent of migrating birds, listened to a sound piece through headphones and moving their bodies in a shaking manner with closed eyes. Drawing inspiration from studies revealing that a flock of 25 birds flying in a plow formation can achieve enhanced energy efficiency and lower heart rates, participants explored whether they could replicate this effect collectively. The subsequent phase involved a transformation leaving their own bodies and trying to become their inner spirit bird.

When making research for the performance, Pernilla Ljungkvist came across an article about the city reeds where the author several times referred to andefågeln, the spirit bird. Mesmerised of what kind of bird this could have been living in the reeds, she upon closer examination of the text saw that it actually said andfågeln, the duck – a collective name for certain kind of water birds, the oldest bird species. When the reeds were filled there was no longer space for the ducks. This discovery prompted contemplation about the existence of a personal Spirit Bird within each individual, a timeless essence that evolves over time but may have been overshadowed by other priorities and chased away. In the performance, the participants were invited to see if they could find their own spirit bird navigating through three phases: shedding the perception of their human body to make space for the emergence of the Spirit Bird, initiating the transformation process, and ultimately opening up to sense the collective flock energy.

After the performance the participants shared their inner experience in the group and together with Anita Campbell, a scholar in neurochemistry, and Leif Lithander, a zoologist providing valuable insights into both the place and the inner life of birds. Anita shared her knowledge on birds’ cognitive abilities, explaining their visual, auditory, and learning capacities, highlighting how research on songbirds has yielded insights into human diseases. 

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