Disclaimer: This post is written in a train-of-thought manner with my 1 remaining brain cell so I’m sorry if it’s boring to read. I’ve highlighted the main points as much as I can hopefully it helps.
Birds are susceptible to collision with glass windows, especially if they are too clear, or if they reflect into the sky. ADM is a hotspot for bird collisions due to the highly reflective glass. According to Nanyang Chronicles, 2018, the glass windows in ADM are responsible for almost 1 collision per day.
NTU sees a large number of bird species as it is surrounded by forests that have abundant food and resources, said Mr David Tan, an avian ecologist who has collected more than 700 carcasses of birds killed in local building collisions over the past five years. He uses the carcasses for research and analysis on the phenomenon.
NTU has many glass-panelled structures, with more than 95 per cent of its buildings in line with the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark scheme. Glass panels are common in green-marked infrastructure as they allow natural light to come through, reducing the need for electricity.
While such designs help to lower energy use, environmental policies often fail to consider biodiversity, said Campus Creatures member Gina Goh, 24, who leads NTU’s bird-building collision patrol team.
- – From Nanyang Chronicles, 2018
This installation aims to engage the public in creating awareness and solutions towards making the ADM building bird-friendly, hopefully prompting the building manager to take action.
This installation appears invisible to an unobservant eye, and its layers serve as transparent obstacles that birds encounter everyday in their flight. This supposed obstacle (if one were to not pay attention) is a reflection of what the birds face and allows us to empathise with them. This is mostly inspired by the saran wrap pranks which people do on both their pets and people:
Inside the installation is a space that is both confining and transparent, which creates a conflict between being in the open and being confined in a small space. This is also a direct reference to the birds flying into the Sunken Plaza in ADM where they are trapped in the enclosed plaza with the reflected illusion of the sky.
The window stands right in front of the visitors of the space where a clear view of the entire Sunken Plaza can be seen. Here is where markers are placed on the window, and round stickers are placed in containers on the ledge, prompting them to paste a sticker onto the marker to make their mark in preventing birds from colliding with the glass. The stickers will be 2cm (subject to change) in diameter and spaced 5cm apart to create a grid that allow birds to see that there is some kind of obstacle for them. This video is an example of the grid:
The stickers are also in primary colours much like Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room, which I believe will beautify the space and allow for the participants’ expression of creativity in regards to where they place them and how they place them in relation to the other colours.
I want the visitors to paste a sticker for each bird they see flying in and around the plaza. I would like the visitors to paste the sticker according to what they feel about the bird, and they are allowed to paste wherever they want on the grid. In order to fully interact with the work, they have to observe outside the window. However, visitors may still peel a sticker and paste it for fun, which I will allow since it is freely up to the visitors to use the space.
I have considered making the sticker-pasting to be free from the grid, as I thought the birds just require something pasted on the window to see that there is an obstacle, it does not matter if there is a grid at all, there just has to be something on the window. However, I think, a grid will make more sense as a whole to nudge the management to apply the idea, and makes the installation more specific which is always better than a vague one. Other than that, I don’t want my work to be like the obliteration room. I would say, if the stickers are all filled, I will allow the participants to overlap the stickers such that it still forms a grid, but it does not go out of the pattern too much.
At the end of the day, the installation should look like an art piece by itself, filled by the public.
The aim of the sticker-pasting is mostly to educate people that such solutions exists. Ultimately, it is up to the management to do something about the bird problem. A really easy and elegant solution is to paste the grid stickers on the outside of ADM’s windows, which, if done properly, will not obstruct the view of people, will not make the building ugly, will not block light or reduce the amount of heat reflected, and will be friendly to wildlife. With this, I really hope my installation will create such impact.
A newly integrated idea is to add paper birds inside the installation. These paper birds come from templates that participants can use to make their own birds. They are then allowed to colour it using markers and personalise it, as well as add their own message to it. The participants can then hang it on a string using clips to clip them on. The birds will be left hanging and thrown into a bin within the installation the next day, ‘delete’ or ‘killing’ the birds. This is a reference to how the 1 bird have been dying everyday due to window collision in ADM. When the installation ends, I would like to collect the birds to create a more permanent display, before recycling them.
The purpose of crafting and personalising is to create a sense of attachment between the participants and their birds, such that they will feel like it is a pity that their birds will be discarded. This prompts the participants to be more protective towards the birds and take more responsibility of the issue rather than just being a passive by-stander of the issue.
The birds will also be the physical representation of the birds that interacted with the glass window. Visitors can interact with the bird by swinging them, taking photo with them, or looking at how each bird is personalised. I hope that it will be heavy enough to make a ‘thud’ sound if a participant swings too hard and hit the birds against the side walls. This will make the installation feel more impactful.
I am greatly inspired by Siah Armajani’s Sacco and Vanzetti Reading Room #3 ever since our visit to the exhibition as I really liked his idea of a space being not just meaningful but also functional as a communal space. I want my space to be the kind of public installation that is useable and functional. I imagine it as ‘interior design with interaction’. That is the ultimate form for my installation.
Outside of being a space for people to learn about the birds, I want the space to be a contemplative space for general use too. I want the space to be a quiet and calming space for people to just relax and look out of the window. However, with the implementation of transparent walls, I’m not sure if I can achieve that as the transparency makes the space not-so-private. We shall see, but that is not the primary concern, as the most important thing is about the birds.
Problems or things that can be done better
If I had more information about the types of birds that ADM encounters (as I did not have enough time to observe them and I can’t find relevant information online), I would make this installation specific to them. To solve this, I used different coloured stickers.
The work is time-based so there are many layers that will unfold over-time so I can only explain during presentation.
Further research other than what I’ve discussed before:
The top 4 most vulnerable-to-collision migratory species are the blue-winged pitta, yellow-rumped flycatcher, western hooded pitta and oriental dwarf kingfisher.
Bird collisions were most frequent during the fall, or autumn migration period between October and November compared to any other period during the migratory season for 2014/15 (Figure 1).
As one can see, the west is the second most common collision area, which is HERE! We need to start being bird-friendly!
After a few brain storming sessions (with myself) I came up with some sketches to add on to my previous idea.
After the sketches, I went to buy the materials. I bought a 7m by 1.8m long 0.3mm transparency sheet from CN Canvas and Hardware which costed $46 (ouch…). The transparency was a bit dirty and creasy so I had to make use of what I have.
I then tried to setup. Initially, I was planning on using the windows at Level 1 lobby area due to there having high traffic. Here are my tryouts with tapes and very quick setups. I also used emergency blankets which I thought was an interesting material as it has both reflective and transparent qualities (just like the windows!) but it does not fit the aesthetic. Referencing Peter Zumthor’s Atmospheres, in order to make my space work well, the main points that the space need to have are compatible materials, tension between interior and exterior, and intimacy.
I began experimenting with how I should put the emergency blanket to make it interesting. I dropped the whole idea afterwards as it is too constrasting with the materials I use.
I also tried using strings and realised how fishing line is able to help me hold up the transparencies reliably.
I then began to scout for a better location as I dislike having 2 big holes sticking out that tells people that my installation is there. I want it to be as invisible as possible.
I found the staircase beside level 2 to work very well as it provides a much higher ground than level 1, which give visitors much more things to look at. It is also situated directly at the middle of the sunken plaza, which is better. Also, there is a mark left behind by a fallen bird on the window. I deduced this was from a bird last year that fell onto the shelter at basement after it collided with the window.
I begin my work:
Here are some photos of my setup. It’s not very easy to see, which is the main point and I think the stairs eased my setup by a lot.
That was the end of my set up trial. I moved on to working on the other parts of my installation, mainly the print-outs and the paper birds.
So, with everything I need and every test tested, I will now set up the installation and hope it does not crash during presentation. Stay tuned.
- My friend Clara gave me a suggestion to making it about the mood of the birds as the colours of the bird wasn’t very strong and obvious. I liked that and took that in. However, I think there is some more depth that can be added to the colouring of the birds.
- The colourfulness is kind of offputting, mostly because it was messy, but also because it makes the whole installation feel cheery which was not really the point.
- Very little birds so its a very slow process.
- The dots look a bit disorienting, commented by Shah. Perhaps I can use that as a way to further disorientate visitors to sell the idea of the disorientation. Through looking at optical illusions. But of course, with similar gap arrangements.
- The birds are well-received as it was a fun activity for most.
- People spend a lot of time on it so it crowds the place up a bit quickly
- the hanging birds, to Clara, felt like they are desperately looking to exit the space. However, to prof. Biju, they looked happy. Perhaps theres a need to find ways to make the birds feel more like they are trapped.
- The space felt calming despite it supposed to feel like its uncomfortable
- The transparency kinda works as it’s safer that it’s visible.
OVERALL THINGS TO IMPROVE
I think as a whole, I need to be more specific about the feeling i wish to incite in my installation. Now, I am too focused on the activism of the project than on the experience. That blinded me a lot as I was only trying to make the space functional and not how it feels. I don’t like art. Especially when it’s art that does not add value. I want to say that out loud first as I think that influenced a lot of my decisions. I want to make something that make people act.
It’s safe to say, the installation is very intuitive to navigate through, as observed with different people who entered and did everything I wanted correctly without asking me anything. With that aside, I can now focus on experience. The idea also sells, I believe, as many are shocked to realise what I tell them, and are sympathetic towards the birds.
However, I still need to work on what exactly I want them to feel, and the effectiveness in making people feel those feelings. What I’m missing out now is the discomfort. This is a bit conflicting as I previously mentioned that I wanted the space to also be a nice space to chill at.
To combat these problems, a few solutions can be explored:
- Make the space more cramp, so if theres more movement, people will get more uncomfortable. But if one person goes in and look out the window without moving, they should feel ok.
- Make the walls more illusion-like, so participants feel uneasy looking at the walls, but feels ok looking at the window. This is where I can add projection to improve my project.
- Make the birds red, as suggested by Khairul, as it will be associated with death and blood.
- Make the stickers of reddish hue. So it will also add on to the redness, hopefully making people uncomfortable.
- Throw the birds on the floor instead of using a bin. This makes the birds pile up over time, which adds to the discomfort. This also works better as symbolism for the death of the birds. I will still get the participants to hang the birds as that creates the idea of attachment that I want. I also find it very odd if participants were to just throw it to the floor directly as it makes it a very destructive act which is… just odd for me. Also, what I realise also is, day and night have different moods. Perhaps the installation will look more sinister at night ( which is where I test out most of the stuffs) so it feels different.
Anyway, I tried this after the presentation and I feel that it becomes much more meaningful afterwards:
Finally, how can I augment my work digitally? Here’s my idea dump
- Use projection on my transparent walls to make them more illusionary, and I can use a few ways to do this.
- use projection on the floor to portray dead birds, and every sticker pasted, a bird vanishes. This is a bit too direct for me, but still an idea that can be entertained.
- Make the hanging birds spin? As if the birds are trying to fly out of the plaza, but that will be noisy. Will be interesting if the bird flies out of the clips as they swing.
- Make the birds drop over time using a mechanism that times it.
- Using Augmented Reality to depict the birds or some other things on the stickers or birds or something
- Crowdsourced images of dead birds can be projected
- YOLO to detect birds?
- ultrasonic sensor glass hit
- what if the birds are all digital and people release the birds, only for their bird to hit the window and die
- Project dots on sunken plaza exterior and with each visitor’s exit, 1 dot is added or coloured
Final words (after presentation)
I really regret messing up my presentation and there’s no way to reverse that. After regaining composure and realigning my mind, I feel more confident in working forward with the feedbacks I have. I just hope to be clearer with where I’m headed with this project and hopefully produce a project that is more meaningful and less pretentious.
UPDATES: Enhancing with Digital
I have an update to my idea. Here’s what I have.
I decided to use more space, expanding my installation to cover at least 3 window panes. Will also split the installation up into 3 parts.
Materials to help prevent bird death: