The Lesser Certainty of the Birds (2018)
UV and visible light photography on acetate, glass, and aluminium
“But observe the lesser
certainty of the birds
who seem to know both
very birthright, [… ]
Imagine the general bafflement
of anything born of the womb
and required to take flight!
Frightened by its very self, it
cuts the air with fractured arcs,
jagged as bat tracks, cracking
the porcelain sky of evening.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Eight Duino Elegy
I converted my equipment to full spectrum, meaning the camera can now register light in the infra-red and ultra-violet bands, depending on the filter used. The camera sensor, as a post-human retina, is capable of registering light and colors out of the human perception; colors that are invariably important for the vision of other species. In particular, birds are able to see in the near ultra-violet.
This is the idea at the center of my project The Lesser Certainty of the Birds. For the series, I worked closely with the UNM Museum of Southwestern Biology, where I was able to access and photograph bird specimens. In particular I chose endangered species from the US. The habitat and populations of these birds have been destroyed or highly reduced, and they risk remaining only as the stuffed specimens I handled and photographed, relics of a lost past. Photographing them in UV light is an attempt of underlining how humans are deleting they cannot ever see or understand.
I have chosen to work with the medium of glass for mounting these images. Glass is a material with specific connotations: easy to clean and heat resistant, it is commonly used for scientific tools, and it is the material of optics, used to create lenses that birthed the invention of the telescope and the camera. I use the glass as an additional filter in the work, a physical medium that simultaneously allows and prevents the full vision of layered pictures, similar to the camera that makes visible the UV without really understanding it. The overall installation uses glass, transparencies and light to create composed images, layered rendering that allow the viewer to perceive the presence of something unseen in the familiar bodies, without fully contemplating it.