2020 - 2021
Oxford, England, United Kingdom
Murmurations is a study of the shape, form and scale of starling murmurations, but also a reflection on the current global crisis, the heightened connection to nature during this period, and the act of coming together and converging as a crowd.
‘Murmuration’ is a collective noun used specifically for a flock of starlings. A small, yet noisy, black bird whose name is derived from the constellation of white specks dotted across its plumage. It’s a beautiful bird, which during the winter months engages in a theatrical and functional group behaviour that the word ‘murmuration’ is given to. Every dusk, starlings from one area crowd together in numbers up to 100,000 and morph into shapes as they push and pull across the evening sky. The reasons for this are multiple – to share warmth during the colder months, ease the spread of information, and protect themselves from predators. Within the current global context, in which the normal functioning of the human world is somewhat suspended as we encourage social distancing in place of group gatherings, the murmuration is an apt symbol on which to reflect on the reality imposed by the pandemic.
The murmuration begins as one starling bands together and connects with another, another, and another, to the point where the whole sky is blotted out by a black mass of birds twisting and turning together. One individual starling has joined with thousands of others and in the process has become a new individual ‘being’ – a murmuration. The project pulls on this process of transformation – Individual images exist independently, are made at different moments of time and often depict the same specific birds, yet in the project are joined together and combined, becoming diptychs, triptychs, or are simply bound together under the name of the project. The individual images are the starlings and the project, the murmuration.
The word ‘murmuration’ is onomatopoeic. As the starlings crowd together and dance across the sky, their collective movement and the vibration caused by their wings create a loud ‘murmur’. The sound of a murmuration when the starlings are at their heaviest can be overwhelming, yet there is distinct structure to the building of this volume and the sequence of the images mirrors this progression. The images start quiet and expectant, depicting one singular starling. The sequence then progresses with the images growing in weight as the birds increase in number and their wings create light, delicate sounds as they begin to pull in synchronicity. The images continue to grow in intensity as the sky is increasingly filled by the murmuration, before reaching a crescendo where the mass, volume and weight of the murmuration peaks. Following which the sequence of images quietens as the starlings filter down from the sky to roost in the reedbeds below.
The physical presentation of the work embodies the murmuration in the way it morphs into various shapes, sizes and weights across the sky. The presentation of the work as a book features various folds that transform and alter the silhouette of the object as you progress through the sequence. The exhibition of the work would embody a similar approach – engaging and connecting prints in constellations, creating a murmuration of images.