Conference for the Birds celebrates the lives of the birds Thomas Bewick depicted in his wood engravings. His book ‘A History of British Birds’, first published in 1797, was a comprehensive guide to both the appearance and behaviour of birds. We are surrounded by seven papier mâché bird heads, painted with the woodcut markings of Bewick’s depictions; three dimensional renderings of his prints. The different bird species are accompanied by the audio of their voices ‘in conference’, each bird being played by a wildlife expert or enthusiast. The birds discuss topics from migration to predation, with each species speaking about the challenges they face day to day. By exploring the lives of the birds that Bewick studied and depicted, this artwork attempts to reveal how we, when speaking from the position of another animal like a bird, rely on subjective experience to relate across to this alien perspective.
Conference for the Birds was originally installed in the small cottage which was the birthplace of Thomas Bewick - Cherryburn in Northumberland, in one of the two rooms his family inhabited along with his seven siblings.