Erasure of the Goshawk Process

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Unfortunately, I was unable to keep last terms’ goshawk painting on the wall, due to the limited space in the department. So, I decided to utilise the situation by creating piece of video art documenting its’ removal. Donning a traditional boiler suit, I recorded myself painting out the Goshawk using a roller and paintbrush.
The video acts as a metaphor for the decimation of bird of prey species around the UK as a result of human activity and urbanisation. The industrial nature of the problem is highlighted by the boiler suit worn by me, whilst I paint out the bird.
The fact that I am not facing camera indicates that perhaps society are unaware /wilfully ignorant of the effect humanity is having on the surrounding environment. However, as I steal a glance at the camera at the end of the video, I finally address the audience. This acts as a metaphor for humanity finally acknowledging their effect on the environment, as is needed if we are to clean up what we have done.
By speeding up the process in the video and layering opacity, creating the impression of more than one worker painting out the bird, I portrayed how humanity as a whole is responsible for this issue rather than one individual.
Finally, a major theme in this piece is a personal one. As I erase the goshawk, I erase what it stood for; the messages of last terms portfolio, as seen in Austringers’ manifesto,  and A love song to the flying death of the northern woods. I erase the separation of humanity bird, and I erase how I expressed so fervently that birds must be viewed as objective creatures.
I intend this to kick-start my ideas for this term. Whilst I still hold true to the values I expressed last term, I will allow myself to explore the more subjective relationship between humanity and birds; how they may interact in a more poetic, fanciful way, and how they may find solace or even pain in each other.
As I erase what I stood for, I allow myself to gain a subjective view of this piece itself. The death of such a large portrayal of a goshawk, the most elusive of raptors, feels a little like the death of an old god.

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Verses 1-6 Process

Verse 1

Invite yourself in, crash through my

World, my breath

I never truly exhale, I am always

Inhaling

I see in ultraviolet (or at least a few of us do) (In much greater detail than you)

I am, we are, death to voles and mice and wrens and to myself; each other too

I am pest and beauty, gore loving pulling tearing squeaking ripping nipping drinking

Eat.

Verse 2

Invite yourself in, crash through my

World, my breath

I never truly exhale, I am always

Inhaling

I see in ultraviolet (or at least a few of us do) (In much greater detail than you)

I am, we are, death to voles and mice and wrens and to myself; each other too

I am pest and beauty, gore loving pulling tearing squeaking ripping nipping drinking

Eat.

Verse 3

Aggression ephemera fear incarnate?

In the neural network, there aren’t many neurons that send information from the eyes to the brain. Most of what I see goes straight to my motor neurons which tell my feet to bring death to whatever lies within via

Crushing suffocation. I am mostly reflex.

Verse 4

Veloci (ty) (raptor)

My swiftness was in my name.

What was in my name is still in my blood, my feet. As is death.

Verse 5

I am still reptilian, you know

When I retch, I regurgitate pellets of my cretaceous form (efflux of fluid)

Scream scream my blood is boiling me

Used to be cold, I was cold blooded

I was cold, the sun cooked me up, I flew too close

Then my lungs changed, and my skin, oh

Spikes from follicle webbing

Yes, thankyou grandmother archaeopteryx, for

Growing, into the air of the wind wounds, from the spasms of the dark earth

Verse 6

When we react, interact, with each other,

Both in leatherbound feet

You mistake me for a deity,

Watching awestruck as I eat.

We have a controversial history,

Some of you still use me to kill

Though one could argue I use you for the same reason.

These poems take the point of view of a raptor, and articulate what it’s thoughts may be if were to verbally communicate with humanity. When writing these verses, I was heavily influenced by Grief is the thing with Feathers, written by Max Porter, as its’ writing style is unique and dynamic in its’ portrayal of a fictional Crows’ thoughts. It is also influenced by Ted Hughes’ poems, including ‘Crow, from the life and times of Crow’. The line ‘Growing, into the air of the wind wounds, from the spasms of the dark earth‘ is a direct reference to Hughes’ work, quoting his poem ‘Daffodils’.
I am content for these poems to remain in written form, as I believe writing in itself as a form of art holds as much integrity as any other medium. It can be read and interpreted differently by whoever reads it; each person, when reading it, conjures a different voice for the bird. By giving the raptor a thousand different voices, I create the idea that these poems come from the minds of  thousands of different raptors.

However, I am also eager to learn how to articulate similar messages and aesthetics in different mediums. In my next works, I aim to give a more physical presence to my poems.

Second performance; ‘Repentance’ process

An eerie, yet ambient tone fades into a clinically white room. Two individuals, one wearing black and the other wearing white, enter with an air of solemn purpose and stand next to each other facing the wall. A grey sky, with a distant red kite circling in the distance, is projected onto the backs of the participants’ heads. They could be staring out of the window at the kite, or they could be simply imagining the kite; a literal head full of clouds. One of them begins to speak.

“Why won’t you stop screaming
Hush now, let me sleep
please
I ache so much”

The other joins in.

“Whenever I look at you, I think of when
I was eight years old, in the garden
Squatting, heart drumming
Listening to my parents screaming
Gazing at your apathetic circle-glide
Just out of reach of crows and gulls
How odd that something as
Neurotic and necrotic and wary as you,
were the only comfort in the world”

Now, only the other speaks.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you
please fly away
come on, get up, please
I’m so sorry, you’re okay, please
I tried to fix you, look, you’re better now
please wake up”

The pair fall silent, and leave the room.

I created this performance piece as a way of articulating my poetry in a physical space. I wanted to experiment with how I might convey the message of the poems visually, as well as through spoken word. As if the poem itself were an aesthetic, an event, or an entity within the room. Perhaps even a sentience.
The participation of two volunteers was particularly essential; they weren’t just two people performing a poem reading. They became part of the room, and by being alive, allowed the verse to come to life through them.
By articulating it in a space, through mouths of flesh and blood combined with projected light, I was able to create a physical form of the poems.

I asked two performers to read aloud a verse each whilst facing a wall, whilst footage of a distant red kite is projected onto the backs of their heads. Themes of desperation, fatal loss, guilt, escapism, and family struggle run through the performance; the performers look towards birds of prey circling above, as a way to escape the pain they are currently experiencing.

This piece was influenced by the exploration into the relationship between humanity and birds in Marcus Coates’ Dawn chorus.

I found one of the most successful elements of this piece to be the synchronised speech; it allowed the narrative to simultaneously hold more power over the viewers whilst making the verse less discernible.

 

Journey to a Higher world; illustration process

‘Journey to a Higher world’ is a deconstructed art book I created, in which I depict birds of prey as ephemeral, otherworldly ghosts. By depicting them as such, I aimed to replicate the almost spooky presence they have around the outskirts of modern society.  The title of the book is I direct nod to Marcus Coates’ ‘Journey to a Lower World’, as I drew inspiration from this piece whilst I was creating the book; Coates calls upon the spirits of the underworld his piece, as I depict the spirits of the sky in mine. The vertical composition of the piece reflects the flight of the birds, and also stands as a metaphor for the title of the piece; a journey to the sky, to a higher world.
Originally I was going to create the book as a bird guide, as planned in the rough Page from a bird guide. However, I decided against this, as one could argue that a bird guide does not count as an art book.
I exhibited this piece as part of the second year spring exhibition, ‘This is what we did’.

Sound Piece; process

Sound piece was originally meant to be final antithesis of my work, depicting raptors in as monstrous, with all calls distorted beyond recognition. However I decided against this, as whilst I am exploring a more subjective view of raptors, I still stand by the message I was portraying last term. Raptors are not monsters.
Instead, I decided to make Sound piece a further development of ‘Journey to a higher world‘, in which I replicate the presence of raptors just out of sight. It is also another of my pieces that has been influenced by Marcus Coates’ ‘Dawn chorus’, and Journey to a Lower world‘.
It was also inspired by the frantic, crowded work of Dennis Hlynsky.
Sound piece includes the calls of eagles, ravens and goshawks. Each of these birds have different symbolisms in society; I chose them to reflect the diversity in how birds of prey are viewed by humanity. The eagle is associated with pride, strength and freedom. The goshawk is an elusive pariah; misunderstood and rare, yet beneficial to the ecosystem. Despite being a very intelligent species of bird, the raven is seen as an omen in many cultures, symbolising death.
The use of goshawks and ravens in the same piece also brushes on the history of these two birds. When falconry was more common, goshawks were often used to hunt crows. As they both cry in this piece, each call becoming increasingly distorted, it sparks the narrative of the historical conflict of these two species. A man-made conflict.

Accipiter gentilis; donation to the international centre for birds of prey

In the wake of my final piece, I decided to pay a little homage to the International Centre for Birds of Prey. The ICBP is a charity dedicated to the conservation, breeding, and rehabilitation of birds of prey. It accommodates the largest variety of birds of prey in Britain, and educates the public about raptors on a daily basis. It has been a constant source of inspiration to me and my work. I donated this illustration of a goshawk to Jemima Parry-Jones, the Director of the ICBP.
It was also a way for me to get back in tough with my roots. I depict an adult goshawk, as objective and true to life as I can make it, with no symbolism attached. It is important to me that I show how I still stand by my original message, despite how my work has deviated from it over the course of the term.
Birds of prey do not adhere to human philosophy. They have no concept of good or evil. They do what they need to do to survive; they just exist.

Artist Statement

The dominating theme throughout my practice has been birds of prey. My work acts a celebration of their form, existence, mannerisms, and their interaction with humanity.     To conclude this term, I have created a performance piece that acts as a physical manifestation of a poem. The cryptic verse acts as a conversation between the mind of a human, and the mind of a bird of prey.  I have incorporated themes of abstract comfort and the essence of home in the human mind. Other themes include epiphany, acceptance, mutual respect paired with a gut-wrenching melancholy.

Two figures enter a quiet room. As they stand facing the wall, light drenches them both, and a soft, sombre melody floods the room. Clouds dance around and over them, avian shapes flitter in and out of view; a distant red kite soars through the blue. One begins speaking, and soon the other joins in. As the voices fade, so does the light; all goes dark, and the figures leave.

In first term, I attempted to dispel the myths surrounding birds of prey, as can be seen in works such as ‘Austringers’ manifesto’, and ‘A love song to the flying death of the northern woods’. The recurring theme in these works was that birds of prey should be removed from human values and philosophy, as their existence does not adhere to the human concept of morality. However, in spring term, I allowed myself to explore their more subjective interactions with humanity.

This idea began in the form of a piece of video art, Erasure of the Goshawk, in which I erase the final piece of Autumn term. In doing so I start anew by ‘erasing’ the strict perception of raptors I created during first term. Erasure of the Goshawk also includes themes of environmental awareness, and the effects of humanity upon the populations of wild raptors. My next piece, Verses 1 – 6, is a collection of poems heavily influenced by the language used Max Porters’ book Grief is the Thing with feathers, and the work of Ted Hughes. These poems take the point of view of a raptor, if it were able to verbally interact with humanity. I was curious to articulate the same message in a physical medium, which led to the creation of ‘Repentance’, and ‘Journey to a Higher world’. ‘Repentance’ acted as a three dimensional form for my poetry, allowing me to give it a living aesthetic. The narrative of this piece explores domestic pain from a persons point of view, as they look to birds of prey in a bid to escape. Marcus Coates’ ‘Dawn Chorus’ influenced ‘Repentance’. ‘Journey to a Higher World’, directly referencing Marcus Coates’ performance piece, takes the form of a deconstructed book in which I portray raptors in ghostly illustrations. I aimed to replicate the ephemeral presence they have around the edges of human society. ‘Sound piece’ acted as an extension of this, as it accentuates the spooky, out-of-sight presence of raptors out of humanities’ line of sight.