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RAE 2008

Rearch Assessment Exercise 2008

Rosemarie McGoldrick

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Research Outcomes

Outcome 1 - Techniques of the Bird Observer II
The position of animals in our society is an issue once principally addressed by scientists only. Increasingly, academics in the fields of philosophy, law and the arts now come at the question from angles that challenge the hegemony of the scientific establishment in this area; I see my research as part of this development.
Techniques of the Bird Observer II is a white wall-mounted box with a pair of red-lens binoculars emerging from the box - an alienating presence. If the viewer approaches the binoculars and looks through a lens, a small shock lies in store - the glass eye of a stuffed bird stares back at the viewer close-up, a pigeon or a sparrow, depending on the lens chosen. The piece is about species-ism - overcoming a simple fairground fear in order to look at animals and recognise that we are animals, too, and that we are also being looked at.


Outcome 2 - Techniques of the Bird Observer I
Techniques of the Bird Observer I sought to address issues surrounding the animal as entertainment, how humanity intervenes in nature for its own ends. I sited a stainless steel mutoscope in the heart of the woods on the Chiltern Sculpture Trail in Oxfordshire, 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.
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.


Outcome 3 - Six Hundred Miles in Search of a Sea Eagle
In 2004 I organised a research trip with my family to the Isle of Mull, where eco-tourism companies derive income from taking visitors to see sea eagles. Despite my best intentions, I never saw a Sea Eagle, and I came back to London dispirited.
After making a few dark drawings of Mull in the studio, I re-visited my journal recording the moods and events of the trip and decided to mix writing and illustrations to produce a short art book about not encountering the object of desire. The fictive/factual text is thus based on the notion that I went a long way to see a bird but never actually saw it - never really saw much at all, in fact, but had to imagine it instead - which turns out to be precisely the lot of the nature artist, who invariably has to fictionalise or "recollect in tranquillity".


Outcome 4 - Bird, Plane, Superwoman
To illustrate the artist/viewer nexus in relation to my research into nature-watching, in 2006 I embarked on a series of photographic prints examining degrees of reflexivity in nature-watching. One of these - Bird, Plane, Superwoman - is a photographic self-portrait of me looking through binoculars at the camera with paper cut-outs of a bird in flight and a jet fighter respectively stuck on to the lenses of the binoculars - and thus examines the space and distance between viewer and artist. The interposition of the binoculars and the superficial cut-outs are alienating devices, requiring the viewer to consider themes of looking and watching inside and outside the conventions of portraiture.


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