Birdsoundcage was a work part of Locus in quo – “the place where something happens” – that is the general title I gave to a body of works based on a particular theme: the sense of places.
In the last decades our relationship with places has changed. Our attitude is farther and farther away from “feeling ourselves at home”, to recognize ourselves as belonging to a specific horizon, which it doesn’t materialize only through the tourist fruition, but it is given by feeling oneself as part of a culture and its traditions that have deeply marked the places.
In Locus in quo I intended to revoke the sense of places. To go in search of the sense of places means to dig the earth that I trample, to touch its roots, to know and rediscover them, to feel and take back the sense of belonging to these places. In this project I intended to analyze how time, memory (collective and individual) and the genius loci can come together to determine the sense of a place and how this can influence individual identity, and more generally the identity of a community.
A bird born in a cage is a bird with dead wings.
A bird born in a cage doesn’t know what it means to fly freely in the big open spaces, it doesn’t know the sea, the forest, the city. It is a prisoner of its own nest, but who knows if it comprehends this. Its perception of the area is out and away limited compared to the perception of the birds that are born free, and this factor inevitably influences its habits and behaviours. Inside the cage-nest, the prisoner bird finds a refuge, security and protection, even if according to us its internal seems small, tight, and inhospitable.
On the opposite, a bird that is born free knows perfectly the open spaces. It is perfectly aware of the risk, of the danger; it learned to trust in places. A bird that is born free and then is closed in a cage is probably destined to succumb because suddenly a coercive power forces it to live the rest of its days in an environment that goes against its nature and limit itself. The cage represents an impediment to the ability to fly.
In the village where my parents had a vacation house, one day I found a sparrow that wasn’t able to fly. I decided to bring it temporarily to the city in order to take care for it. Once cured, I intended to set it free.
Seeing a sparrow in a cage locked in the city was very strange. I still remember the deep feeling of inadequacy that ran through my body before that image. The sparrow was clearly sad and unfortunate, perhaps by having a broken wing, or perhaps because it felt that once it had its wing healed, from that moment its life would be lived in the few available square inches.
The bird refused to eat and almost didn’t move in its new small home. It became passive. Each passing day it became darker, the feathers were losing their colour, until one morning when I woke up, I found the cage empty: the bird had died and my mother had given it to a cat to be eaten.
The experience touched me. Even if 20 years have now passed, I still remember that episode of my childhood and, my feelings for the sparrow: a little body, so small and fragile, that hold in itself the infinite space.
Sometimes, when I was thinking in this episode I asked myself what could have caused its death. It would have been the broken wing and the physical pain, or the awareness of losing its freedom and therefore the loss of hope?
Birdsoundcage is a cage for birds recreated through the medium of sound in an empty and sterile room. Inside it, there is a body flopped to the ground, completely bandaged, that in order to survive decides to make a custom- made cage made by prostheses. The prosthesis are obtained setting with a white patch twigs of wood on the lower and upper limbs of the body. The organic matter with whom the prostheses are made, is the rest of a nest, a place of the past that no longer exists.
The cage is an imaginary place built around a body, which evokes a place within the body to a state of being. The cage could be many things, many unpleasant situations that we are inevitably forced to live, that aren’t imposed by others, but that nonetheless we tend to gather. Therefore, the cage can have a double significance. The cage is the prison or the nest, depending on our approach to life and the meaning we give to things. In a situation of discomfort, sadness and despair, the cage can become into something positive when pain place us in a situation of confrontation, when pain becomes sharing and act upon our will. Closure can then become openness. The loss of liberty, due to the existence of a restriction, an impediment, an obstruction is a resolvable condition. Building a cage with the remains of the nest, to me, means accepting the pain, let it flow. It also means to connect to our past, to what we were, to our own experiences, from which we can always gain new knowledge.
Birdsoundcage is a symbolic place of which we are invited to make sense.
Birdsoundcage is a 4 channel sound installation with a video.
The sound installation recreates the internal and external environment of a cage. People hear from the four sides of the room the sound of a bird that flings against the gratings of a cage and in the distance the sound of free birds, the voice of people, dogs barking, etc. Whoever enters in the room has the feeling of being trapped in a cage together with a bird.
The video transmitted by a small tv monitor shows the meticulous building process of the prosthesis on the various limbs of the performer’s body.
Original Idea and Artistic Director: Manuela Barile
Field Recordings & Multichannel Audio Composition: Duncan Whitley
Camera: Luís Costa
Editing: Manuela Barile
Production: Luis Costa e Carina Martins (Binaural)
Support: Ministério da Cultura – Direcção Geral das Artes
Frames of Birdsoundcage, a video film by Manuela Barile, 2009