If I told you that, on Wednesday I watched a bird play a Gibson les Paul, would you think me sincere? And if you did think me truthful, would you conclude that I was at an art exhibition, or like I did, assume it was a computer stimulated April fools from Bill Oddie.
This is the real life surrealism of contemporary instillation art.
We waited for longer than I’ve ever queued for an exhibition, during the mid-afternoon of a Wednesday during the Easter Holidays. Ambling slowly closer to the metal chain curtain I had no idea what to expect behind it. I’d read about birds ‘creat[ing] a random and captivating soundscape’, but to be honest, in disbelief and over art-education, I almost thought this was solely metaphorical, and certainly not ‘live’. I had seen teens appear from behind the curtain anxiously checking each other for signs of debris, whether it be feathers or excretion (neither which they had acquired.)
It wasn’t like an aviary at all. Despite being populated with zebra finches, which outnumbered the specified twenty-five visitors, this exhibition space felt like an exhibition (…perhaps I’m just getting more used to this experimental stuff). It was like any other exhibition, in that you stood and carefully observed art. You stood and looked, and waited until you thought you’d seen enough. What was different however was that this performance art had strayed from the individual waiting to find meaning to it, instead, the individual waited to be sufficiently entertained. This was experiential art. Yet it seems to be that the artist cared not so severely about how it makes you feel, but how the art sounded.
Once you realised that the poor fist-sized creatures weren’t going to be electrified, and yes they were being fed and watered, there was little shock to the concept. The experience was just surprisingly. Initially even enigmatic. It was a particularly enchanting experience watching these tiny birds form nests around the volume controls of the basses, or even in my bag (-the real need for a cloakroom in an art gallery.) I had become Mother Hen.
So what did I get out of this exhibition? That I’m not exactly sure. I’ve got bored of questioning the qualifications of an artwork. I can’t even seem to be able to analysis this exhibition in the same way I would every other exhibition…It was the most extraordinary exhibition I have ever been to.
A must see – open in the exhibition space: The Curve at the Barbican Centre until 23 May