The Poem for the Bower Bird was a playful experiment on my last days at Bundanon Trust.
I was introduced to Satin Bowerbirds via the great David Attenborough, through my TV screen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLY6RP1ys9c), so I was well excited to see a real one living in the grounds of the Homestead. The bower was right in the middle of the Victorian garden and every time I came down to the Homestead I would watch it grow.
Slowly, a few blue and purple things started appearing – mostly plastic bits and a few Jacaranda flowers.
My last week at Bundanon I came up with the idea of making a “poem” for the bird, a play on words with the aim of seeing if he would pick them up in any particular order and add them to the bower. I first placed them on some slabs of wood and left them very close to the bower.
This was clearly an offence. I had trespassed his territory and he didn’t like it – the bird picked the whole pieces of wood and dropped some 5 meters away from the bower. Luckily the letters were carefully stuck down with a bit of blue tack, so they survived the rejection.
I then tried placing the poem a bit further away, but still on the wood.
No success. I don’t know why, but after a day or so the bird had shown no interest whatsoever in the blue letters. On my very last afternoon at Bundanon, I changed tactics and placed the letters directly onto a bench close to the bower, where I’d seen the bird some times.
The letters were quite small, about the size of the small purple flowers he’d shown interest in before. Here you can see them to scale.
Success! I returned next morning to find the letters had become part of the bower.
It turns out the bower birds are great at installation art & sculpture using nature (take note Andy Goldsworthy.) Anyway, I’d love to carry on doing work in natural environments, where nature plays a definitive part in the process & outcome. I found it interesting to see how nature can redefine the economics of play and work and instinct obviously takes a prime spot. I’ll have to research the behaviour of British animals though….