The world has no shortage of things (the world of the Great Bowerbird)

the world of things is too full
The world has no shortage of things (the world of the Great Bowerbird) 2007 Mixed media sound installation with found objects inimitables
Green, grey or dull silver Artwork, image © Perdita Phillips Photography courtesy of Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery knowledge
Dimension variable. One 30 minute and two 7 minute soundtracks sound track CD edition 50/50 available $22
Three track sound installation over gallery speakers and from two speakers above the shelf works, bird from the Western Australian Museum, objects from bower collections, mineralogical crystal system teaching models from the Edward de Courcy Clarke Earth Science Museum, The University of Western Australia.
Project: Green, grey or dull silver: Art and the behavioural ecology of the great bowerbird, Chlamydera nuchalis 20072008 Broome and Perth
Exhibition: The System of Nature 2007 Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, The University of Western Australia

Two shelves are positioned opposite each other in a secluded corridor. A Great Bowerbird and samples of objects collected by wild birds, face a collection of grey geometric shapes. The opposing displays are accompanied by intense bowerbird calls on the one hand and taxonomic descriptions of the birds on the other. The entire gallery echoes with a soundscape of the world of the bowerbird from the Broome Bird Observatory.

view of both walls with matching soundtracks coming from above

catalogue statement

The Great Bowerbird is found across the tropical savannas of northern Australian. As part of his efforts to woo, the male Great Bowerbird collects white, grey, dull silver and greenish objects that he places in piles at either end of an avenue of sticks and twigs. During the breeding season the male spends hours each day arranging and rearranging his collection, renovating his bower, and even stealing from or wrecking the bowers of his rivals. When a female bowerbird approaches the male will perform a courtship display that involves picking up the objects and presenting them to the female at the same time as he calls and fans out his mauve nuchal crest. The extraordinary song of the bowerbird comprises high pitched whistling notes; cackling, chatterings, explosive hisses, noises like paper being crumpled or silk being shaken; liquid churring noises described as sounding like marbles being rattled in a bag. The bowerbird is also a good mimicry of many other birds and other animals including cats and humans. In this work you will hear, for example, a bird mimicking a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.

In a bower you might find marbles, golf balls, silvery objects like spoons and Alfoil, green glass, light bulbs and plastic toy soldiers. Bowerbirds also mimic human sounds such as cricket on the radio, someone’s sneeze or a creaking weathervane. The bowerbirds do not think of us humans as unique or special entities. As individual organisms they carry around an Umwelt1 a perceptual world within which things ‘fit’. The males freely avail themselves of human made objects as long as they fit certain criteria of colour, size and roundness. These criteria are thought to be both genetically inherited and in part culturally learnt, and socially transmitted through generations.

crystal system models

In The world has no shortage of things you will hear sounds of the world of the bowerbird from the Broome Bird Observatory accompanied by a scientific description of the bowerbird. One of the lesser-known aspects of Carolus Linnaeus’s works was his attempt to extend his system of classification to the mineral kingdom. He classified crystals depending upon their external angles and the model objects here relate to the work that Linnaeus did. The two systems of classification by the bowerbird and science intersect and interdigitate. And whilst conveying the Umwelt of the bowerbird might ultimately be an impossible task, the artwork explores this space of uncertainty between the human and the nonhuman.

male bird and objects

1 From Jacob von Uexküll’s Theoretical Biology (Uexküll, 1985) originally published in 1909.