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Rosemarie McGoldrick
Techniques of the Bird Observer I


Chiltern Sculpture Trail
Christmas Common, Oxon
permanent display

August 31, 2006


visit the Chiltern Sculpture trail website

Techniques of the Bird Observer I was the first in my series of projects researching nature-watching. The piece sought to address issues surrounding the animal as entertainment, how humanity intervenes in nature for its own ends.

With Arts Council funding, the Chiltern Sculpture Trust commissioned a permanent installation from me for their Oxfordshire forest trail. I sited a stainless steel mutoscope (a "What the Butler Saw" machine) in the heart of the woods, into which a visitor peers and hand-cranks a one-minute flicker movie of the re-introduced raptor, the Red Kite, in flight against a blue sky.

The intended focus was the paradox behind conservation - that human intervention and control is required on behalf of other species, whose condition or welfare we consider to have been affected by human intervention and control. The Red Kite was shot and poisoned almost to extinction in England a century ago. The birds seen along the Chiltern escarpment are only here after breeding from an imported Spanish pair. With such stage-management, they provide a great show for locals and visitors alike.

Assigning grace, drama or aspiration to the flight of a bird reveals the pathetic fallacy at work. Our perception of conservation is riven through with Ruskin’s idea; we anthropomorphise, project our own love of life on the lives of other animals, lives we farmed in the first place to make our own more bearable.

Pictures and sculptures from nature tend to be memorials for the old wild - the wild as perceived before conservation began. My installation Techniques of the Bird Observer I examines the contemporary wild, the desert stage of our own conservationist making. As far as I know, no other wireless mutoscope is on display outdoors anywhere else in the world.

simulation of animation video clip

back to Rosemarie McGoldrick home page

London Metropolitan University