Wild West (2019)
Performance with Lukas Kesler
Kunsthalle Osnabrück, April 2019,
Locatie Z The Hague, June 2019,
De Player Rotterdam, October 2019
Since 1500, almost two hundred species of birds have died out worldwide. In addition, an unknown number is considered lost. In Europe, in historical times, only one has disappeared forever - the „Great Auk“.In our performance "Wild West", my collaborator Lukas Kesler and me whistled the entire list of these 265 bird species, which have been lost since 1500, piece by piece. The whistle sounds are oriented on the real singing of the birds, but remain still fictional. „Wild West“ was a requiem for all those feathered animals that disappeared in the past. Their names, which were read out loud, sound almost as melodious as the sounds they make.Although our extinct-bird-soundtrack is commemorative music, it is also a forward-looking musical piece - scientists predict that by the end of the 21st century, at least ten species of birds per year will become extinct.
Kunsthalle Osnabrück is an old monastery from the 13th Century. The main exhibition space is not the space in which we performed, but an enourmous de-sacralized church. While we were performing behind the windowframe, the bird sounds were live broadcasted into the nave of the old church. Here, we played with a certain dramaturgy for the recipients to explore the piece. First, the audience encountered the almost uncanny (but melodious) sounding whistle sounds in the echoing church, seemingly coming from nowhere. Only on the second view, in the second room, the concept behind the chant was revealed. During the 90-minute performance, the audience went back and forth from one room to the other to both experience the piece in deconstruction and reconstruction. They described „Wild West“ as both touching and funny – the former because of its quality to form a „ghost choir“ and the second mostly because of the humorous naming of the species and the extreme dedication and exactness of the whistling performer.
We situated ourselves behind a windowframe, so that we became almost an image, a still life or „Tableau Vivant“, that could be looked at like in a diorama. Our costumes played with the idea of preserved-ness as they were treated with kolophonium rosin, which is usually being used for taxidermy of animals or in butchery - to pluck the feathers of bird cadavers. It is also used by rodeo riders who use it to prepare their hands for better grip. Our white Levis-outfit referred to a stereotypized image of the „Wild West“ as an image for (white) supremacy. Due to its texture it was extremely hard to wear and it became almost a sculpture itself. The materiality also referred to the idea of mimikry, used as a survival strategy of different bird species and other animals.