Speechless, a new work by the Rotterdam-based artistic duo Bik Van der Pol (Liesbeth Bik and Jos Van der Pol), is a multilayered exploration of how we speak about the precarious state of the natural world. The work consists of a custom-built aviary, which houses four parrots taught to mimic phrases from T.S. Elliot’s seminal 1922 poem, “The Waste Land,” comparing landscape devastated by war to the ecological devastation of today. The aviary is furnished with a jumble of sculptural letters that spell out the terms “global warming,” “climate change,” and “sustainability.” Part poetic gesture and radical expression, Speechless addresses the power of language within political contexts, and our ability to understand and discuss environmental degradation. The work was inspired, in part, by recent debate in Florida’s state government regarding the use of controversial terms such as "climate change" and "global warming.” Speechless draws on the uncanny ability of parrots to mimic human speech as a way of exploring the Aristotelian notion that we are political animals, constantly engaged in attempts to influence and govern one another. Historically, the human capacity for verbal language has been used as a point of separation between animals and ourselves. This separation has, in turn, helped to accelerate our exploitation of the natural world. By incorporating animals that literally speak back to us, the artists envision a situation in which language serves to unite, rather than to divide, humans from animals, with hopes that this reunification may help us address the urgent ecological crises that we face today.
The parrots in this exhibition, Cleo, David, Zach and Jany, are on loan to the museum from a private individual. They were bred in captivity and regularly appear in a variety of public capacities, such as movies, commercials and public events. While at PAMM, their care is being managed by one of the nation’s leading avian veterinarians. Following the exhibition, they will be returned to their Miami home, where they will continue to live together.
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Pretty Polly to proclaim environmental truths at PAMM
The Dutch artist duo Bik Van der Pol (Liesbeth Bik and Jos Van der Pol) have enlisted the help of some live feathered friends for a new installation commissioned by the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), due to open on 13 August.
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