Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You've GOT To See This Exhibition

Tweetly-derr! Tweetly-derr! Tweetly-derr! tweetle the finches, dressed in neat grey livery, with brown and white spotty sides, black and white striped tails and bright red beaks.
In their minds, they are trumpeting a magnificent fanfare, but all we sorry humans hear is silly squeezy-toy squeaks.

I had taken a break from immersion in a funding application to do another part of my job- visiting students at their workplaces where they were doing placements. One was at a studio in Old Street, the other in Brixton, and between the two I treated myself to a lunchtime visit to Celeste Boursier-Mougenot's exhibition at the Barbican. It's free, and you Must Go.

A selection of guitars and basses are set flat approximately 3 feet from the ground, plugged into amplifiers; a flock of tiny and uncomprehending finches flutter about, having conflabs in groups on the floor, perching on levers, and peering in curiosity at volume knobs.
One inserts a twig hopefully between the strings of a bass.
Was that a 'C' chord I heard? Hopping down the neck, a little bird almost manages to play the beginning of Rock and Roll Music by Chuck Berry. There is a small dropping at the 6th fret.
Here and there, seeds are irreverently piled in upturned cymbals.

'Peep!', exclaims a bird as three of them inadvertently play a complex jazz chord high up the neck of a Gibson. Preening and drilling its beak on a wound-metal E-string, it elicits a dark and sinister drone.
Eat yer heart out , Stooges!
All over the gallery, strange and random guitar sounds emerge, all created by the finches as they potter about birdily.
Here, two of the little mites are carefully building a nest out of ornamental grass and fluff between the bridge and pickup of a bass, oblivious to the interesting twangly sound they are creating.
The jack plugs poking out of the sockets of each guitar and connecting them to the amplifiers at the sides of the gallery make perfect perching-places for the smart wee chaps to glance quizzically up at the humans above, wondering what on earth it is they find so interesting.
Scurrying up and down the fretboards on their spindly red feet, they are foley artists for their own accidental performance, busy being birds in birdworld and bringing a smile to the faces of the clumsy punters who find it difficult to leave this extraordinarily imaginative exhibition whose combination of charm and invention is totally unique.
It's free, it's on Level G at the Barbican, and it's on till May.
If you can't go, I believe there is some footage on Youtube that has been garnering rather a lot of hits!


Anonymous said...

Thanks H. I miss hearing of this stuff as I no longer get Time Out - my protest at them changing their formay one too many times - so its a mighty fine public service you perform. They are great on youtube

Wilky of St A
(wish I could remember my passord!)

frayedattheedge said...

Sorry I can't get to see the exhibition, but I did read about it in the paper.