Disfigured Paradise

Disfigured Paradise was our first (solo) exhibition made during our Art & Science Residency with Culture at Work, Sydney. It was made possible by our curator Elyse Goldfinch and with technical assistance from Joachim Christiaens. The exhibition was in two parts - an installation 'Birds of Providence' and a video documentary 'Chasing Extinction: The Lost Birds of Norfolk Island'.

 During this Art & Science residency we researched the effect of British colonialism on Australian wildlife, focussing on a South Pacific island called Norfolk Island. When the 5 x 8km island was settled as a British penal colony, food was scarce and several endemic birds were eaten to extinction. Due to this settlement, along with more recent habitat destruction, Norfolk Island has one of the worst rates of bird extinction globally. We visited the island to make field recordings and speak to the local community about what happened to these extinct birds.

The installation became a space to resurrect some of the extinct birds lost on the island. Through sound recordings of New Zealand sub-species and anecdotal evidence from historical journals we produced our interpretation of the extinct birdsong, which was never recorded. The sound was activated through swinging, and was accompanied by timelapse footage from our visit, and videos of 3D digitised specimens of the extinct birds now found in Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherlands. An extract of the 3-channel projection, and sound recordings can be found below.

The video documentary is made from a combination of found footage and iPhone/iPad recordings of our conversations with individuals on the island, along with its unique landscape. It explains the history of the demise of the avian population, and the remarkable efforts of certain people to reverse this. It can be watched here.

Read more about our residency in the exhibition catalogue. We hope to recreate this work on a larger scale - you can find an installation plan for this here.

Installation shots of ‘Birds of Providence’

Extract of amalgamated 3-channel projections from installation ‘Birds of Providence’

Extract from documentary ‘Chasing Extinction - The Lost Birds of Norfolk Island’