Tell me something: unlearning common noisy wild urban birds through listening, voice and language

Clover, C 2015, Tell me something: unlearning common noisy wild urban birds through listening, voice and language, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Art, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Tell me something: unlearning common noisy wild urban birds through listening, voice and language
Author(s) Clover, C
Year 2015
Abstract Pigeons, seagulls and corvids (crows and ravens) live in great numbers in most cities around the world. Their presence is universal as well as local. They are gregarious, loud and social and their various calls are common and heard frequently. Increasingly these birds are considered pests and nuisances although they are also loved and respected. Man’s shifting attitude to wildlife dictates which species are considered valuable and which are not at any one time. Through audiovisual installation practices using field recording, digital/analogue imaging and the spoken/written word, this project investigates our ambiguous relationship with these birds through a framework of everyday urban experience.

My project builds upon specific works by multidisciplinary artists Natalie Jeremijenko, Marcus Coates, Snaebjornsdottir/Wilson and Mark Dion. Sound artist Salomé Voegelin provides a conceptual context through both her practice and her philosophical writing. Her use of written text as a means of recording sound has provided a framework for my explorations using phonetic words to render birdsong in text form. Conceptual writers Georges Perec and Simon Morris provide ways of engaging language and the written word as an expanded means of working with sound. Bill Fontana and Susan Philipsz’s site-specific sound works provide a stylistic context with which to explore the role of site in the project, and how exhibiting the work outside the gallery system in the public domain has contributed to the research.

Postmodern thought that addresses the animal in contemporary art has been a key philosophical context for this project. The Postmodern Animal (2000) by Steve Baker and the more recent Art and Animals (2012) by Giovanni Aloi are significant texts for the project. Salomé Voegelin’s philosophical embrace of contingency as a means of understanding the wider role of sound echoes Baker and Aloi’s postmodern uncertainty and has provided the project with a clear underpinning in its sonic orientation. Humour, also a postmodern characteristic, has played an important role in the realisation of many of the artworks. The project references ecological/philosophical approaches as expounded by Val Plumwood and Kate Rigby. These writers challenge ways of thinking that position the natural world as separate from ourselves and thus objectified. Environmental philosopher Arnold Berleant’s focus on aesthetic experience as a means of understanding the interconnectedness of all things provides a context as does anthropologist Tim Ingold’s exploratative and wide ranging approach to human behaviour. The relevance of the project is also demonstrated by the very active worldwide scientific research into animal behaviour including cognitive biology, comparative psychology and animal cognition.

Gilles Deleuze’s considerations of the wider possibilities of language anticipate Giorgio Agamben’s and Rene ten Bos’ reflections on the significance of animal voice, two of the few philosophers to do so. Adriana Cavarero drew my attention to the significance of voice in relation to language and how voice is commonly overlooked as a means of communication, while Roland Barthes’ and Michel de Certeau’s correlations between language and the city provide the project with ways of drawing together language potential between species prompted by an urban proximity.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Art
Keyword(s) audiovisual
animal voice
urban birds
human-animal relationship
sound art
urban ecology
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Created: Wed, 19 Aug 2015, 11:36:52 EST by Denise Paciocco
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