Creation of life

Kristin Schnell

2020 - Ongoing

In the early 80s, my grandpa lived alone in his house and walked very badly. To keep him from being lonely all week, my father bought him a small budgie in an even smaller cage.

However, neither my grandpa nor the bird seemed to be happy about each other. As soon as my grandpa approached the cage to feed, the bird freaked out, screamed and fluttered fearfully against the cage bars, panic in his eyes.

Otherwise the bird had no other changes, its world behind the bars remained almost always the same all its life.

He looked in 4 different directions 12 hours a day, looking ahead out of the window at the barren white courtyard wall, looking back towards the dreary kitchen with a humming refrigerator, looking to the right at the whitewashed kitchen wall, looking to the right at the kitchen door, which now and then was opened and closed again on the day by my grandpa. That was his life for almost 11 and a half years.

At that time I didn't know anything about budgies, any more than I knew about canaries or other exotic birds. I had never thought about their origins either, because the budgie in the cage was then as it is now, a familiar sight in the living room.

Some of the birds could even speak, they mimicked the words and sentences of their owners, with us their language was German, so I assumed that their origin was German.

However, our little "German" birds originally come from Australia. There they live in flocks of over a thousand birds in steppe and grasslands and follow the rain.

In 1840 they were discovered there by an English ornithologist John Gould and brought to Europe. In Europe these cute, colorful exotic species were not known, which made them coveted objects of European and worldwide people. The profit per bird was enormous, which made it an object of prestige for the rich and noble. Hundreds of thousands of them were therefore caught by English colonialists in Australia with nets and adhesive devices, put in tiny cages and shipped to Europe for months in dark shiploads.

Few survived this ordeal, also because the catchers did not know what to feed the birds. The budgies and parakeets were therefore almost extinct in Australia.

The descendants of this colonial robbery are still a familiar sight today, at home in cages in our apartments and gardens. Although they are now used to surviving in the outdoor aviaries in the garden in winter temperatures, they have still not managed to domesticate themselves freely in our nature.

In contrast to the 80s, a friendlier consciousness towards our housemates has arisen today. Birds are no longer allowed to be kept alone and every pet shop and animal adviser recommends free flights of the animals in the rooms for at least one hour per day. Many people now adhere to it and even leave the cages open during the day.

My photos serve to show that we have come to love our exotic species and that we no longer have to fear their strangeness. We have become so familiar with them that they are naturally part of our lives.

There are reservations about strangers, especially in rural areas. Even a German newcomer will be perceived as a newcomer for years, I know that from my own experience after moving from the city center from Berlin to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania two years ago.

I was very impressed by the diversity of nations in my former home in Berlin. All nations lived peacefully under one roof, even though some neighbors in their home countries were at war.

This experience motivates me that I can show with my photos with the help of my birds that we have all had good experiences with strange living beings and that we can trust ourselves when we embark on new human social adventures.

By letting go of our fears we also become more sensitive and more attentive to other living beings. If your own fear is no longer powerful, other emotions can arise that are not primarily negative. That would be, for example, feeling empathy towards other living beings, the basis for showing respect and charity.

Future actions will become more conscious, because every step and every action has a consequence.

I artfully stage the exotic birds, color is my main concern. Growing up with the color theories of Josef Albers (including a teacher at the Bauhaus), I extend his theories to living beings in combination and harmony with innate colors and the artificially mixed color world on materials.

By placing the birds in an artificial, abstract world, removing them from our usual perspective, the viewer perceives the birds as objects of art. I put our native birds next to it, also artfully staged. For my goat parakeets from Australia, our domestic blackbirds are the counterparts.

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