2 May 2011
For the Open studio event on 28 April, I exhibited 3 pieces that I had created as part of the residency at CAMAC, France.
The End of the Line
Marker pen, confetti, 5 speakers, fan, wooden triangle, 11ft Ping Pong race painting.
An audio-visual installation developed from a series of experimental studio works inspired by the pigeon post into Paris.
The End of the Line explores the end of the carrier pigeons’ journey and the end of the pigeon postal service. It is the 4th development of installations, including Dropping station 1, Dropping station 2 and M and X soundscape (see below for further information). All installations have been inspired by the pigeon post into Paris and have been created at CAMAC as part of the residency programme.
After the Franco-Prussian War and the introduction of wireless communication, pigeons were no longer employed to deliver messages. The pigeons that survived were official property and were sold at the Depot du Mobilier de l’Etat.
The visual references in The End of the Line were marked out from the previous installation (Dropping station 2) and are a response to the journey (usually between Paris, Tours and Poitiers) by carrier pigeons to deliver messages. To reduce the flight distance, the pigeons were taken by train as far towards Paris as was safe from Prussian intervention and were regularly taken out of Paris by hot air balloon.
The confetti on the floor traces the lines of an open-back book case (used for Dropping station 2) and marks out 16 squares using confetti, to celebrate those pigeons that received a commemorative medal for successfully delivering messages in record time.
The 11ft Ping Pong race painting shows 19 lines representing those pigeons that never reached their destination and therefore failed to deliver their messages. The colours represent each month, (October= red, November= orange, December= yellow and January= blue).
The soundscape uses sound recordings generated from previous installations (Dropping station 1 and Dropping station 2), which include balloons being inflated, deflated, squeezed, popped and dunked into water. The sound of a pigeon auctioneer can be heard from a Youtube clip. Recordings from Marnay-sur-Seine, including the sounds of pigeons and the church bell were used to represent the sound of the loft bell, which also announced the arrival of a carrier pigeon. The soundscape was split into two, so that two speakers placed on opposite sides of the room could take it in turns to play. This set up worked particularly well when the recording of the pigeon auctioneer was used.
Listen to The End of the Line (approx 4 mins) The soundscape was split into two and played through two speakers at opposite ends of the studio space.
Egg box messages
7 French eggs boxes, paper letters and marker pen
Pigeons were used to deliver messages during WWI and WWII, when the usual methods of communication were disrupted or unavailable.
Cher Ami (Dear Friend) is a famous war pigeon, who delivered a message that saved the Lost Battalion (194 people), in WWI. The two pigeons that tried to send messages before her failed to do so (they were shot down). This is a tribute to Cher Ami and the two nameless pigeons.
First message sent by unknown pigeon number 1:
‘Many wounded we cannot evacuate.’
Second message sent by unknown pigeon number 2:
‘Men are suffering can support be sent?’
Third message sent by Cher Ami that saved the Lost Battalion:
‘We are along the road parallel to 276.4 our artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake stop it!’
Under the Seine
Under water sound recording
During the Siege of Paris between 1870- 71, the Prussians disrupted the communication into and out of Paris. They cut the last secret telegraph cable, located in the bed of the River Seine on 27 September 1870.
CAMAC, the organisation for art, science and technology, is based in Marnay-sur-Seine, which is situated in between the River Seine and a transport canal.
Using hydrophones (underwater microphones), I have recorded a conversation that I and a friend had while in Paris together. We took it in turns to dunk our heads into bowls of water, to relay a conversation. The initial idea was inspired by the connection to the River Seine and the notion of communication being disrupted.