Sara Angelucci’s Haunting Bird-People
By intervening a series of photographs, this Canadian artist tells us of the Victorian spirit and defends the life and memory of some birds in North America.
Aviary by Sara Angelucci, presents fourteen beings from a different planet, these are human bodies with the head and torso of a bird, which speak of a specific zeitgeist and, simultaneously, denounce an alarming fact: the extinction or imminent disappearance of some birds species in North America, entirely because of man.
Born in Ontario, Angelucci works with pieces that pay homage to memory and the past. To do this the artist employs discarded materials like ancient portraits, home videos, old objects and instant photographs. By intervening these, she brings the past into the present and sheds new light upon it, reminding us of what has happened and what is happening now.
Aviary is a series of thirteen intervened Victorian photographs, known at the time as the carte de visite, a format for individual photographs which was popular towards the end of the 19th century in Europe. This period was characterized by an obsession with collections, taxidermy and exotic birds (brought from several colonies) which would lead to the creation of aviaries: collections of living birds from every corner of Earth, hence the name of the series. Science and the development of natural history would also permeate the imagery of this era. Simultaneously, photography experienced a boom as a way of keeping loved ones close. As a result, post-mortem photography was invented during this period when there was a clear fixation with death, thus, it came as no surprise that it was at this time also that spiritism emerged which, among other things, allowed the living to talk to the dead.
Aviary speaks about Victorian sensitivity, their need to remember the things that no longer are and their zealousness to be in touch with death and the world of spirits. However, when we see the title of these images, something else draws our gaze: the birds that are represented are extinct species, or they are on their way to extinction, endowing Angelucci’s work with a new dimension to. The birds she is showing us, creators of the world, symbols of the soul, faithful companions of man and, at times, the sign of an ill omen, are beings that just like the anonymous people of the portraits have disappeared or are on the brink of extinction.
In sum, this is a collection of portraits of human and bird ghosts, where neither type of creature wants to stop existing. Each portrait is a new species, the coming together of two creatures who no longer are and who are there to talk to us about the past, but they are also there to denounce human cruelty and selfishness. Sad and hardened faces, which stare out at you, carrier birds we whose message we should pay close attention to.
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