Thursday, April 22, 2010

Zebra Finches Rock!

There is a small flock of zebra finches playing electric guitars at the Barbican!
I just went to see them. While we queued up, I worried about the flashing lights and odd noises coming from the exhibition space, but as it turned out that the actual aviary was around a corner, and the birds were quite obviously having a lovely time there.
It's an installation by CĂ©leste Boursier-Mougenot, have a look at the website...

I am sharing a flat with a zebra finch, and so their behaviour was very familiar - inquisitive little beasts they are, set on building nests in any likely or unlikely space, and using everything that looks a bit like a branch as a dance floor. This includes, evidently, fretboards. They like hopping along branches rhythmically while they sing, and they whet their beaks on them as well. So, basically, it's a room full of tiny determined birds singing honky little songs while accompanying themselves with power chords... and beak solos.
There's also a plentiful supply of desert grass planted all over the place, and several pairs had decided to try and weave them in amongst the guitar strings. - All in all, the piece sounds quite a lot like Neil Young's "Dead Man" soundtrack, plus honking.
The birds are also completely unworried by the visitors, investigating them and sometimes even stuffing pockets and hoodies with bits of grass and snuggling into them experimentally (I wish I could show you a picture of that, but sensibly photography was not allowed).
It's not nesting desperation at work - there's a selection of actual nest boxes mounted high up on the wall, so the little guys can retire from the concert at any time. There wasn't any fierce fighting going on, neither, just gentle beak-fencing over the more popular instruments. I really think they simply like to pick odd places to nest in.
The only thing that I thought was lacking to make this the happiest aviary ever was a spotlight to bask in.

This is a video of an earlier installation, I believe, they didn't have green grass in this one but sand and dry grass instead. Probably wise, being desert birds they get easily overexcited about any sort of green stuff, eat too much of it and get ill.


Rima said...

Hey Viviane .. Congratulations on your Carnegie Greenaway shortlisting!!!
Bravo bravo! So well deserved :)
Great experimental finch music too :)

Viviane Schwarz said...


Candice Hartsough McDonald said...

this is amazing!