Stripped elder branches, elderberries, woodchips, charcoal. (2012)
A Science/Art collaboration with artists led by Paul Evans, & scientists led by Prof.Tim Birkhead. The project was part of the the Festival of the Mind, a collaboration between the University of Sheffield and the city, which showcased its cultural strengths. For more information on the Festival see http://festivalofthemind.group.shef.ac.uk/
Photo credits: Vic Wiggers and Paul Evans.
Male bowerbirds create incredible structures to woo a mate. The Satin Bowerbird (left) paints his bower with crushed berries, while Vogelkop’s Bowerbird (top) creates piles of objects which show his eye for colour.
Like the satin bower bird, I painted the bower with crushed berries. To enhance the colour, I had stripped away the bark to reveal the white wood beneath. White catches the eye of human beings as it reflects the most visible light, and catches the eye of birds because it reflects U.V.
My collaborator, Clare Napper, on hand to explain the science.
The bower referenced Land Art, to pose the question – are the Bowerbirds’ structures works of art?
The smell of fermenting berries gave the bower a multi-sensory aspect. The female Satin bowerbird will taste the ‘paint’ in a potential mate’s bower, to check it is freshly applied.
The male birds perform a dance in front of their bowers, so I wanted the work to have a performative element.
The bower was made from natural substances used by the birds – wood, berries, and charcoal.
The Satin Bowerbird puts the smallest objects nearest the bower. This ‘forced perspective’ makes both the pile of objects and the bird himself look as though he is further away and therefore bigger as he performs his courtship dance.