June 1, 2012 - August 26, 2012 at Art Gallery of Grande Prairie
Opening reception: Friday, June 1, 2012
Bird Radio is a continuation of Bill Burns’ earlier work on animals, plants and safety. At once humorous, earnest, and slightly subversive, Burns’ Safety Gear for Small Animals (SGSA) project included meticulously crafted gear to offer some semblance of protection to the non-humans who share our hostile environment. Whereas SGSA had borrowed display strategies from the realm of natural history, Bird Radio focuses more closely on strategies of mimicry and elusive communication.
Central to this multimedia installation is a chandelier-like device with jerry-rigged birdcalls surrounded by a selection of modern chairs. When the birdcalls are activated by visitors, the sound is transmitted outside of the gallery space to be heard in real-time on the radio. The birdcalls are two-fold reproductions: not only are they devices designed to mimic the sounds of birds that have been exiled from most of our urban environments, but they are also rebuilt versions of pre-existing devices.
The installation also features a video of children demonstrating the birdcalls and a selection of schematics. Though Burns warns us that his birdcalls are hardly a substitute for listening to the real thing, Bird Radio invites us to consider questions of authenticity and the curious authority attached to proxy illustrations.