Ask the Birds

The Curios Society

  • Marcus Coates, Untitled 2017, digital drawing. Courtesy of Marcus Coates

    Marcus Coates, Untitled 2017, digital drawing. Courtesy of Marcus Coates

Past Event


This event was on Sat 24 Feb, 3pm

Assembling on the first three Saturdays of Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World, The Curios Society meets to investigate the weird and wonderful, the unlikely and impossible. 

If birds could offer advice on human problems, what would they say?

Artists Marcus Coates and Fiona MacDonald : Feral Practice invite a panel of bird specialists: Helen Macdonald, Tim Birkhead and Ceri Levy, to use their knowledge of bird life to illuminate problems and questions of human experience.

The audience are invited to bring questions to be deliberated and fathomed via the wisdom of the birds. Questions can be about anything that concerns you – personal or political, local or global. You are welcome to submit your question to www.askthewild.net or bring it with you on the day.

The panel will use their specialist knowledge of the intricate relationships and behaviours that have evolved amongst bird species as a mirror to our own lives, opening up fresh perspectives and insights. Subverting a ‘Gardeners Question Time’ format, Ask the Birds draws on and celebrates the vast resource of knowledge that birds and birders have accumulated.

This event is part of Ask the Wild, a project by British artists Marcus Coates and Feral Practice.

About Marcus Coates

Marcus Coates is an artist. From his attempts at becoming animal to his vicarious experiences on behalf of individuals and communities, he seeks to re-imagine and create forms of relating that can influence our outlook as a species. Recent publications include: Marcus Coates, 2016, a survey monograph, Koenig books; UR…A Practical Guide to Unconscious Reasoning, 2014, Bookworks; The Trip, Koenig books, 2011.

About Fiona MacDonald

Fiona MacDonald is an artist, curator and researcher. She works with human and nonhuman others as Feral Practice to create art projects across species boundaries, and curates interdisciplinary events that develop ethical intimacy with beyond-human nature. Recent projects include: Mycorrhizal Meditation, 2017 Furtherfield Gallery; Foxing, 2017, PEER; Wood to World, 2015-16. Her text Formica’s Forms, is in Ethical Materialities in Art and Moving Images, Bloomsbury Press, 2018 (forthcoming).

About Tim Birkhead

Tim Birkhead is a British zoologist, and professor of behaviour and evolution at the University of Sheffield. His research focuses on populations of birds and their reproduction. Recent publications include: The Most Perfect Thing: the Inside (and Outside) of a Bird’s Egg, 2016; Bird Sense: What it Is Like to Be a Bird, 2012; The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology, 2008.

About Helen Macdonald

Helen Macdonald is writer, naturalist, and an Affiliated Research Scholar at the University of Cambridge Department of History and Philosophy of Science. Her best selling book, H is for Hawk, won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize and Costa Book Award. She has written and narrated radio programmes, and appeared in the BBC Four documentary series, Birds Britannia, in 2010. Her other books include Shaler’s Fish (2001) and Falcon (2006).

About Ceri Levy

Ceri Levy is a filmmaker, writer, curator, and podcast presenter. His Gonzovation Trilogy of books, written with artist Ralph Steadman, comprising Extinct Boids, Nextinction and the recently released Critical Critters deal with the subject of species extinction. He has travelled across the world in order to understand the problems faced by conservationists and has campaigned against the illegal hunting of migratory species in the Mediterranean, especially in Malta. This forms the basis of his project, The Bird Effect. His journals can be read online at Caught by the River.

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