Birds must find Liverpool a very challenging environment. As the city shifts and mutates beneath their wings, our chiff-chaffs, swifts and sparrow populations plummet into freefall. LiverpoolONE, despite being greener, uprooted many of our resident birds’ nesting sites: those old warehouses and dusty attics every bit as des a res as the steel and glass edifices of One Park West.
And, talking of steel and glass edifices, for thousands of migratory birds, they’re the very last thing they see: as they end their mighty journeys, abruptly, with an unscheduled stop against a skyscraper.
As you’d imagine, for birds in transit across Manhattan, the problem is particularly troublesome.
It’s a phenomenon that’s etched out in sound and film, drawings and installations, by the Birds’ Ear View Collective in ‘The Spectacle of the Lost’ – a new show premiering at the Victoria Gallery and Museum this week.
The exhibition is influenced by Audubon’s journey from New York to Liverpool in 1826 and his stunning seven-volume collection of watercolours and observations, The Birds of America: a copy of which is pride of place in Liverpool Library’s collection (Liverpool was an enthusiastic supporter of Audobon – and one of the few cities to exhibit his meticulous and luminous work).
Birds’ Ear View Collective is Jon Barraclough from Liverpool, Alexandra Wolkowicz and Rob Peterson, both from New York. Taking as their starting point the impact of the urban environment on birds, the Collective has created this sobering, timely and powerful exploration.
“The Spectacle of the Lost aims to explore man’s relationship with nature, and asks what humanity’s relationship with the natural environment may be in the future,” says curator, Royal Standard’s Laura Robertson.
“The exhibition is a perfect fit,” says Victoria Gallery’s Matthew Clough, “as it draws on our collection of paintings and drawings by Audubon, the largest collection outside of America.”
Whilst in Liverpool, Audubon – known as `The American Woodsman’ -stayed with the Rathbone family at Greenbank House by Sefton Park where he painted many of the works which are on display in the Audubon Gallery. If you’ve never been, the Gallery is well worth the trip uptown. Forget Springwatch, go discover a little of our own natural history.
In a city where fabled birds rise proudly from the turrets of our buildings, The Spectacle of the Lost is a flight of fancy that dares to speculate: what would happen if they fled their perch for ever?
The Spectacle of the Lost
Victoria Gallery and Museum
1 June – 25 August