Thursday, 15 September 2011


Artstation Gallery, Ponsonby, Auckland
February 21 – March 7, 2007

This project started with a discussion about how art can be alienating depending on how you are positioned in relation to it.  It was decided to directly engage people in the making of a show in order to connect them to the work and provide an opportunity for them to consider the ideas underpinning the work - about the role of benevolence in a society that worships commodities and the spectacle, and deifies celebrity.  The aim, as with all FGS projects, was not to create ‘community’, which is utopic, but to activate conversation via participation.   

Funding for Birdhouse was gained through Creative Communities.  Then an intensive facilitation and publicity process followed inviting people to be part of the project.

The exhibition opened with another tea party.  It began in an unaccustomed way as an incomplete work – just a little blue house in the middle of the gallery, some ghostly blue trees painted on the walls, several tables and chairs, hundreds of pre-cut undecorated silk-screened birds and some art materials.

Birdhouse was an egalitarian exercise and brought together many different people.  Primary, intermediate, secondary and special schools took part; along with diverse clubs and societies; and the organisations affiliated with the Artstation community.  Many people dropped by informally as well.

People could choose a bird and then decorate it as they wished with the art materials provided.  The birds were then installed on the house and gallery walls.  The final show grew over the two week period – and stood completed for its final three days as a colourful sight once all the birds were made and had been installed.  At the conclusion of Birdhouse almost 800 people had taken part.
The show worked on many different levels.  It engaged people in a real way; it was visually brilliant; and had many interesting conceptual layers.  Meanwhile, the birds became an allegory for the ideas that arose through discussion prompted by the project. 

Birdhouse was tied off with two benevolent gestures.  Firstly, the birds were taken down and either returned to their makers, or posted on as gifts to nominated persons or organisations.  Secondly, honesty box donations were collected to assist the work of Sylvia Durrant, better known as the ‘Bird Lady’ of Brown’s Bay, who has voluntarily rescued and nurtured sick and injured birds at her home for many years – a vociferation for the individuals who quietly and selflessly make generous apolitical contributions to a community.

FGS was invited to repeat Birdhouse at the Christchurch Art Gallery at the end of 2007.  There were about 700 birds to pre-cut at short notice, so friends and family gave up their time for a special ‘cutting bee’ in support of the event.  

Bird Rescue Volunteer Sylvia Durrant and Max
Christchurch Art Gallery - Birdhouse Installation