At the turn of the 20th century, most if not all of the passenger pigeons in the United States had either been hunted or killed to the point of extinction. Second to the locust, passenger pigeons were known to have lived in the largest flock of any animal. Their sudden and rapid decline due to mankind's ignorance of the bird's life cycle and habitat loss is now looked upon as a turning point in the public debate over conservation of natural resources.
Rachel Berwick's exhibition titled Zugunruhe is an installation piece that consists of two items: a 9ft high octagon of mirrored, smoky glass which contains a tree with amber passenger pigeons; and a glass globe with a dial that points to simulated migration patterns and written reports of passenger pigeon sightings. The pigeons are cast in copal, a form of amber, and hint to those animals that were encased and fossilized in amber. The smoky glass case forces a viewer to make an effort to view the pigeons, and at the same time, the mirrored glass provides an opportunity for inner reflection. The term "zugunruhe" refers to the nighttime restless behavior birds exhibit before migrating.
For over twenty years, Berwick has been creating artistic installations in hopes of drawing attention back to the natural world. Past installations have focused on the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands, the extinct Tasmanian tiger, the humble lives of moths, Amazon parrots, and the Coelacant fish often referred to as a living fossil.
Berwick's exhibition at the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University begins with an artist lecture at 5:30pm on Friday November 13, and continues until February 14, 2010. In addition, an accompanying lecture series will be held from November 18 through February 11.
Malcolm Grear Designers created the invitation and installation graphics for the exhibition.