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We Move As A Murmuration

23 March to 30 September 2024

We Move As A Murmuration is a group exhibition delving into the entangled relationships between humans and birds.

Curated by Naoko Mabon and Timespan director Giulia Gregnanin, the exhibition looks at the oppression, domination and alienation of nature and birds under capitalist, colonial and modernist forces addressing environmental and social justice.

A murmuration is a large flock of birds swooping and swirling in unison, and in this context, it serves as a metaphor for collective movement, unity and care. By moving as a murmuration, the exhibition invites collective action for the liberation of all, overcoming the separation between humans and nature, and challenging the scale naturae that configures a hierarchy between beings.

The artists adrienne maree brown, Chuan Lun Wu, Disarming Design from Palestine, Edwyn Collins, Hanna Tuulikki, J. Drew Lanham, Joan Ross, Khaled Jarrar, Mamadou Tall Diedhiou, Penny Woodley, Petrit Halilaj, Sethembile Msezane, and Un/Nature employ diverse media and languages to offer a lateral perspective on birds.
Their works address a range of intersecting issues, including the need to deconstruct the historically dominant approach to ornithology.

Human interaction with birds dates back to prehistoric times, encompassing both utilitarian and symbolic roles. However, the formalisation of ornithology as a scientific discipline coincided with colonialism and as a by-product of the British Empire.

Naturalists engaged in expeditions imposing European classification systems on species, often disregarding Indigenous cultures and perpetuating the aestheticisation, categorisation and exploitation of birds. Conversely, across history, birds’ capacity of free movement and traversing borders, has led oppressed people and communities to elevate them as symbols of freedom and resistance against diverse forms of oppression.

We Move As A Murmuration intends to shed light on the catastrophic effects of the commodification of the environment brought by extractive capitalism, which designated birds a “sacrifice zone” to immolate for the sake of profit. This is materialised in the devastation caused by the recent bird flu outbreak that has brought some avian species to the brink of extinction, and in the disruptions of migratory patterns due to climate change and pollution.

Acknowledging the destruction is crucial to initiate reparations, the artists or “flockers” involved reflect on alliances of kinship, adopting trans-species practices of healing and care, as well as queer processes of identification able to disrupt prevailing understandings of gender, sexuality and nature.

By embracing the act of murmuration, we aim to become a collective body that transcends the division between inside and outside, thereby redefining the environment not as something external but as something consistutive of our own being.

To reflect the constant movements of birds, the exhibition “swirls” in July, transforming the space with new artworks and installation arrangements to bring fresh perspectives and emphasise transformational change.

Discover the full list of artists

The exhibition is a part of the homonymous research project We Move As A Murmuration, initiated in autumn 2023, in response to the Bird Flu outbreak in the North of Scotland, questioning the anthropocentric interpretation of nature as something to be controlled and disposed of.

The project comprises a series of talks, workshops, and activities held both in Helmsdale and online from autumn 2023 to autumn 2024, fostering a collective process of learning and unlearning, to which the public and local communities have been invited to contribute.