Birds. You wake up, and there they are, you hear them. Many varieties, all singing in a harmony that we could never understand apart from ‘It’s time to start your day!’ Yet, they are never seen, they are forgotten about. As part of the Brighton Festival, Fabrica Gallery collaborates with Marcus Coates to give these beautiful animals the centre stage they deserve.
Fabrica is known for its large, open plan building, giving the opportunity for distance and depth that other gallerys cannot accommodate, which is the perfect back-drop. In the exhibition, 19 large screens are positioned in random spaces, with individuals filmed sat in places they feel at peace at, or spend most of their time. The car, the bath-tub and the table with the morning newspaper and coffee are my personal favourite. Yet, what make this is all so interesting, is these people on screen rarely move…or talk. Instead, I recommend you simply close your eyes, and stand still. A wealth of bird-song engulfs you, swirls around in a never-ending torrent as it does every morning, yet you can’t recognise where each birds-song is coming from depending on what screen, and recognise that these people, these birds, are in fact talking to each other: we have just never slowed down in our own lives to realise this before.
Marcus Coates, the creator of the piece, has shown his interest in bird song the majority of his life, and realised how similar we are to them. He discovered that slowing birdsong down makes it sound like musical notes that humans can make. ‘Actually, when you slowed it [birdsong] down, it revealed all this music in there that we actually can’t hear because it’s too fast for us, so it was like uncovering a hidden music’. Marcus went out with a sound expert to the countryside with 14 microphones, and recorded various birds in their birdsong. With these recordings, he auditioned amateur singers in choirs, trying to find people who would match perfectly to a bird. He asked them to repeat the bird song he had recorded (yet slowed down so it sounded like a human), and then sped it up again to sound like a bird. And yes, they sound identical.
Do bird’s listen to us during the day, at our ‘all-day’ chorus? Are we truly different? Birds look for food, they sleep, they mate, and they sing their hearts out until they can no more. Do you?
Take 10 minutes out of your day, and visit Fabrica up until the 24th May on Duke Street. I really recommend reading the plaques. Immerse yourself in a world that seems so far away, yet is so much more than just a song.
By Robert Bone