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What Birds Talk About When They Talk


HD video 26 min. 28 s.

IMAGE CREDITS: Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens, What Birds Talk About When They Talk, 2019-2021, HD video, 26 min. 28 s. Installation view, Ulrich Museum of Art. Photo H&S.

What Birds Talk About When They Talk is a video animation that humorously ventures into the stakes of interpretation. Through a cross-cultural collection of references culled from mythology, science, cartoons, and literature, the piece conflates the historic and the contemporary to create a portrait of birds’ distinct voices and the fascination they exercise on humans.


Propelled by a soundtrack of calling, drumming, tweeting, rattling, duetting, screaming, mocking, conversing, news reporting, philosophizing, and prophesising birds, the work invites us to consider the effects of our interpretative acts: Do they foster connections across difference or limit our understanding of what nonhuman animals can think and do?


The translations presented in the piece reflect the continuity or discontinuity humans imagine between themselves and birds, from objects to talk about to subjects that can be talked with.


Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens’ collaborative practice combines a concise approach to the form and construction of the art object with a desire to make ideas visible. For several years, they have examined the history of science and other forms of knowledge, including the language of economy, the magic of statistics, the capacity for models to impact the future, the aesthetics of data visualization, and the design of laboratory experiments. More recently, their practice has involved attempts to expand and thicken the meaning of hospitality, care, communication, and attentiveness between species.


Recent solo exhibitions include Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita (2021), Grantham Foundation for the Arts and the Environment, Saint-Edmond-de-Grantham (2020-21), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha (2019), VOLT, Visningsrommet USF Gallery, Bergen (2019), Audian Gallery, Vancouver (2018), Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston (2017), Jane Lombard Gallery, New York (2017), International Studio & Curatorial Program, New York (2016), Esker Foundation, Calgary (2016), and Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal (2016). Recent group exhibitions include Fiskars Biennale, Finland (2019), OFF-Biennale, Budapest (2017), Bienal de Cuenca, Cuenca, Ecuador (2016), Istanbul Biennial (2015), La Biennale de Montréal (2014), Manif d’art: Quebec City Biennial (2014), and Sharjah Biennial (2011). They have realised site-specific commissions in Sharjah and Zurich, and, in 2021, they installed a permanent public artwork in Montreal.


They live in Durham-Sud, Canada.

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