Maryse Morin draws on the fields of music, media arts and anthropology, and writes within the liminal spaces between art and anthropology.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, from here to ear v.19

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, from here to ear v.19

Seventy zebra finches made themselves at home in the Contemporary Art Square of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, between November 25, 2015 and March 27, 2016, fluffing their feathers, chirping gregariously, flying about, and activating power chords.

This most unusual aviary is the work of Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. For the 70 “new residents” of this space, the artist has produced a transduction system built into the room’s custom furnishings, mainly made up of fourteen perches: ten white Studio model Gibson Les Paul electric guitars and four Gibson Thunderbird bass guitars, all propped up on TAMA cymbal stands.

To this array of instruments, Boursier-Mougenot has connected ten Fender Mustang III modeling amps, four Roland Cube Bass XL60 electric bass amps, and four 51 cm Zildjian cymbals transformed into floor drinkers and feeders, resting on sand. The exhibition—or “stage,” depending on one’s point of view—was completed by local grass and four wooden housing units along the installation’s walls. In the context of this “living” museum space, the installation evolved over four months, implying that grass grew and that birds reproduced.

As a matter of fact, the co-presence of visitors and zebra finches gradually brought about an impromptu dance. Each step made by visitors caused the birds to take flight and land on their mythical perches, where they stroked, plucked, and otherwise came into contact with the musical instruments and their strings. The result was a radiant waltz, as nearby human movements were juxtaposed with the reflexive flights of these “YardBirds,” which were as refreshing as they were light and trifling.

The resulting ecosystem produced a sonic palette of open-tuning blues and rock power chords that transported the visitors of these living scenes into living scenes themselves. In step with the birds’ movements, the instruments resonated with feedback loops and rich sound textures, sometimes compressed or colored by pitch shift. 

The installation’s thresholds transcended typical and often entrenched limitations normally related to museum exhibits—which one was only too happy to leave behind. 

The integral article is available for you to read, in French, in magazine ETC MEDIA #107.

“Les Temps inachevés” of Patrick Bernatchez

“Les Temps inachevés” of Patrick Bernatchez

Angelica Mesiti sets “An Ocean of Air” in motion

Angelica Mesiti sets “An Ocean of Air” in motion