Birds in the Park
“Birds in the Park” is a touring project, which involves the temporary installation of thirty to sixty porcelain birdlike forms on the ground.
Pecking around randomly, they might be taken for pigeons. They are, in a sense, carrier pigeons, as the forms carry images, text, and other documents, which have been printed with cobalt blue and fired into the surface. The message they bear is an exploration of the beautiful and the horrible side by side. Originating with the shock and dismay I felt as the US government began the war with Iraq, and expanding to consider the phenomenon of war in general. The questions posed by the birds are about the humanness of us all. How we are connected, and also the unthinkable ways in which that bond is disregarded.
More specifically, I’m layering silk-screened images of children playing, love letters, poetry and prose… with silk-screened newspaper articles and photographs of the lead-up to and beginning of the current Iraq war, as well as other war-related documents that tend to bring up the question, How can people do that to each other?!
For most citizens, and for me, personal experience of this war has been mainly through the media. In fact I feel that the media had a large role in the U.S. public’s acceptance of the decision to go to war, and I’m looking closely at how the invasion of Iraq was “sold” to regular people. Also, how discussions about the cold facts of war, weapons capabilities etc. can become detached from the human reality on the other end, creeping into everyday life as something normal, like birds in the park.
In addition to personal photography and images and text taken from public media, I am collaborating with writer and Vietnam War veteran Tim Origer, English poet Henry Shukman, and Venezuelan photographer Maria de Las Casas for some of the material that appears on the birds.
This work draws on years of experimentation with silk-screen printing onto clay. I create the silk screens from photographs and documents, and use them to apply the image and text onto wet porcelain. While the clay is still flexible, I form the birds, and eventually fire them at a very high temperature.
The forms themselves are about a foot and a half each in length. Low to the ground, some are involved in their own search, while many appear to be in conversation with each other. Because of the whiteness they might also look like a flock of oversized doves.
Although they are made from porcelain, the pieces are actually quite sturdy. They are set up in such a way that people can wander among them, taking time to look and read.
At the moment, I have a small flock of birds, which is slowly growing in numbers. This flock has begun to land and will be landing in many different places around Santa Fe this spring; the farmer’s market, the Teahouse, City Hall, the parks, the libraries… I set them up in the morning and take them down at night. It’s anonymous and somewhat fleeting, the better to catch the unsuspecting passerby’s curiosity.
Later in 2009, the birds will begin to fly farther afield; some planned landings are in Los Alamos, New Mexico; Central Park in New York City; Swami's Beach in San Diego; the New Orleans Museum of Art sculpture garden; two locations in Germany; and in August, the Galapagos Islands.
Pictures and location information will be updated at www.christyhengst.com