Aerial

4K Video
Duration 00:11:27
Commissioned by Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter for the Birds Without Borders exhibition. On show 20 July until 3 November 2019

The birds in this taxidermy collection stand as figureheads of their species, frozen in a perpetual state of animation; separate from their flock. Yet in their former life these birds would have journeyed thousands of miles over land and sea, guided by celestial cues from the sun and stars, the earth’s magnetic field and mental maps, negotiating man made borders and development.

Our starting point was to use the idea of a journey as a means to explore this collection of 14 migratory birds. Point cloud data obtained from a CT scan of a feather and 3D laser scans of each of the birds has been used to render their forms into vaporous bodies of light. The fluidity of working with this medium has enabled us to animate a series of flight paths through the collection, to explore each form from different viewpoints and create new juxtapositions between the species and different landscapes.

Aerial really developed out of the editing process. The slow action of exploring the point clouds and generating the renders from the scans revealed unexpected qualities unique to this particular collection of birds. There seems to be dynamism to their forms, captured in freeze frame by skilful taxidermy, but transformed again into luminous bodies which appear to dance around each other in combinations that can only exist within this diorama.

The soundtrack developed specifically for the film, and showing on the monitor in the “In Fine Feather” gallery, weaves recordings of wind together with orchestral elements specially composed and mixed to express the balletic moves and potential dramas playing out between the different birds. In this virtual world these lifeless birds are able to soar beyond the borders imposed by their apparent stillness.”

Landscapes created using open source data provided by Norwegian Mapping Authority. ©Kartverket, www.kartverket.no.

Birds range from the sora rail, a rare American visitor to the British Isles, to now extinct North American passenger pigeons; from the red-listed cuckoo, a brood parasite and harbinger of spring with its well-known and distinctive call, to the bird with the longest migration: the arctic tern.