Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at Barbican

March 21st, 2010

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

The Curve at the Barbican has been taken over by flock of zebra finches that like to rock out, they seem to have expensive taste too – £1,500 Gibson Les Pauls for the lead guitar loving finches and £1,000 Gibson SG Standard Bass for the finches that like it heavy.

The installation by French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot is supposed to draw on the rhythms of daily life  to produce sound in unexpected ways, with the finches freely able to fly between the electric and bass guitars, microphone stands, and cymbals filled with either seeds or water.

Some of the guitars seemed to be open game for any of the finches to fly to and use as a perch, but others had two finches attempting to build nests on them and any other finches that tried to perch there would be shooed off.

The nesting finches seemed to lay down a rhythm, as they would frequently fly off to root out something to use to build the nest, then fly back and land on the guitar stings in a number of places. Other finches would crash loudly onto the bass guitars but not stick around for long.

The cymbals were an interesting idea, as the finches peck at the seeds they bash the cymbal, depending on where the cymbal is bashed you get a slightly different sound.

Overall with the various guitars sounding (with some reverb and delay), alongside the cymbals sounding and of course the finches own bird song, you get a strong ambient vibe from the installation that essentially is just nature doing it’s thing, not composed and completely unique.

Despite really enjoying being in an environment where sound was being created in such a unique way, I have to admit I came back with mixed feelings. Guitar surfaces are lacquered and as such the finches that were attempting to nest efforts were in vein; anything they built up eventually slipped off onto the floor. The finches were slipping around on the guitars too.  Seems a tad cruel, I’d expect more from the Barbican.

Admission to the installation is free and it’s open until 23 May 2010; due to the open nature of space there is a limit of 25 visitors at a time, so expect a bit of a queue (30 mins roughly) if you’re going during peak times.

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