This project started as a residency for Rhod, an outdoor exhibition, in 2012. I was able to spend a month on site and in local archival records exploring its history and making observations. This site is particularly unusual because it is one of the only corn, rather than woollen mills, in this area. Peculiarly given its geographical location in the very heart of rural Wales, one owner tried to make it into a miniature exotic aviary in the early part of the 20th Century. Not perhaps surprisingly the venture failed and the exotic birds were sold on. The cages however, remain. In my photographs you can see the cage for the Nanday Conure Parrots. The demise of this venture proved to be fortuitous because a little later a fire ripped through the area decimating the land. The damage is still visible on many of the now empty and degrading cages.
For the residency I sat for many days inside the parrot cage, drawing and observing the current bird life that had acquired the site as their own. It was impossible not to imagine the chatter of exotic birds when they were all on the site and the chaos that would have ensued had they been there a matter of days later when the fire raged. At the time I rewatched the film ‘The Birds’ and was reading Tenessee Williams ‘Eccentricities of a Nightingale’ and so the imagery (ritual religious practices, as metaphor for mental health concerns, as emblem of both fear and hope) began to mingle with my experiences of the site itself.
I created a range of drawings that overlayed popular cultural imagery with my own on site drawings and photographs. From which, three were selected to be turned into signage designed to look like information boards seen in nature reserves. Each sign, rather than information, had a line for Tenessee Williams play that for me captured some of both the history and sensibility of the place. A chair was also left near the cage as if keeper or guide was momentarily absent to further emphasise the surreal ‘Marie Celeste’ nature of the site; as if suspended in time, or some awful aftermath of a tragedy.
Later a performance based on this work formed part of a solo show at Kings Street Gallery. In the performance I read from Tenessee Williams “Eccentricities of a nightingale” and sang ancient Welsh and Scottish folk songs into handmade bird boxes made from drawings taken on site at Rhod.
‘I thought it only concerned me & the birds’ © 2012
Ode to Tennessee Williams’ play ‘Eccentricities of a Nightingale’
Performance & Installation
Photograph courtesy of Ken Day © 2012