Sunday, April 13, 2014

Local Art Seen: the ørigin of birds


Friday evening the Prøve Gallery in downtown Duluth offered up another exceptional opening titled ”origin of birds”, a multimedia adventure conceived/produced by Kathy McTavish. The installation is best described by the artist's notes:

The ”origin of birds” exhibit at the Prøve includes a multimedia installation and interactive web site created by a film generator that I call the “graffiti angel.” The origin of birds mixes image, sound, data, text and a live twitter stream to create a video collage / a multi-sensory torrent. The installation includes multiple projections, live performance, and QR code “portals” into an interactive web environment for viewers with mobile devices.

A musical accompaniment by virtuoso cellist McTavish and Richie Townsend on a subdued electric guitar added yet another dimension. The spaciousness of the room and the high production values helped create an atmosphere and experience uncommon in this region.

There was also a participatory piece which enabled visitors to the gallery to add messages to the existing wall of digital images being delivered within the space, though I felt this was underplayed and should have been highlighted more. It's my understanding that this is the first of several installations for "origin of birds" and it may be that the interactive piece can be enhanced in future iterations.

Needless to say the opening was dramatic. The room was abuzz.

Here's the background story on the origin of birds:

According to an ancient Greek story, the god Chaos was the first to emerge at the creation of the universe. Soon after her came Gaia (Earth), Tartaros (the Underworld) and Eros (Love). In many versions, Chaos then gave birth to the Birds. From the primordial depths of time, from Chaos herself came these winged first beings. This wild birthing created migrations and flight.

In more recent times, soon after Darwin published his book, On the Origin of the Species, scientists began a heated debate about the origin of birds. Most scientists today believe that birds are one of the few remaining descendants of the dinosaurs.

In our own brief Anthropocene era, we are witnessing a rapid increase in the rate of extinction. We are in a geologic epoch marked indelibly by a human-created, asteroid-scale period of rapid loss of life as we know it on the planet. This planetary devastation is entering a very fast-moving era, and soon birds quite possibly will be swallowed back into some primordial chaos.


Whatever your take on their origin, it's easy to understand the fascination with birds, how they fit into the grand scheme of things and what their future holds in light of the present changes taking place in our global ecology.

The projected imagery was frequently abstract and struck me as something of a Rorschach test in which one projects interpretations. Some imagery was very definite, such as the aerial view of the St. Louis River Bay aquifer, an area rich with ornithology and aquatic life, both similarly challenged by 100 years of industrialism on these self-same shores.

In addition to event itself McTavish produced a book that accompanied the show. The print media version contains imagery that stylistically corresponds with, but does not reproduce, the images in the show.

There was also a Saturday workshop & discussion designed to look at creative transmedia /storytelling across boundaries. McTavish planned to share examples of artists and writers working in this emerging form, digging deeper into the confluence of technology and art as well as sharing some of the tools used to create the exhibit.

Certainly we've come a long ways since Picasso's groundbreaking Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. And as technologies evolve, so will the new and inventive ways in which they morph with the arts continue. Hence we can anticipate a future that will likewise continue surprise and amaze us.


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