The Substitute, Hermione Spriggs & Laura Cooper, 2019 Aerofoil board, steel, audio, wind
The Substitute explores the transformation of birds as we know them into data bodies and zombie-like decoys. The Substitute was commissioned for Watermans Art Centre as part of Air Matters, a project investigating the contested airspace around Heathrow Airport. The work responds to the airport’s absurd objective of maintaining a ‘bird-free’ environment over several square miles. After research into the various forms of bird deterrent utilised at Heathrow and other UK airports, collaborator Laura Cooper and I adapted the design of a ‘predator eye’ decoy to create a wind-powered kinetic sculpture that spins and distributes flashes of light. Hosting our two sets of angry eyes in place of the original hawk-eye design, the sculpture captures and diverts the attention of birds, whilst drawing human attention to aeroplane flight paths as they slice through wetland bird reserves on Brentford Ait and Kew Gardens. An accompanying audio piece – a sci-fi ghost story for humans and birds – is built entirely from found text pulled from commercial bird-control websites and Heathrow’s shopping outlets. This soundscape is projected from two outdoors tannoy speakers (the kind used in sonic bird control), revealing hidden relationships between bird control, surveillance, commercial advertising and human paths of flight.
Air Matters: Learning from Heathrow is an exhibition and programme of events that explores the politics of air. Focusing on the neighbourhood of Heathrow, it engages with the air’s materiality, occupation, and contestation, as well as with the potential and limitations of representing these themes by means of art. It comprises newly commissioned artworks, walking tours, workshops and a symposium, bringing together artists, community groups, industry professionals and scholars. It will be of interest to all those who have a stake in the neighbourhood’s environment and for whom art is a gateway to its discovery and transformation.
Commissioned for Air Matters at Waterman's art Centre, London, October 3, 2019 – January 5, 2020
Curated by Dr Nick Ferguson in collaboration with Klio Krajewska at Watermans Arts Centre.