REVIEW: For the Birds: Brighton Festival

May 8, 2017

For the Birds

John Easterby

Brighton Festival

This is a whimsical, fun, engaging and ever so slightly serious series of installation artworks set up in an outdoor natural space somewhere just outside Brighton,  you wander thought this night time natural wonderland and are presented with a series of artworks which  suggest, mimic, reproduce and mystify the birds who would normally occupy this space.

You hop on a bus, reminiscent of the mystery tours so favoured by aunts of mine in the 1970’s – but at night – and are deposited in the dark, with some superb and wholly novel views of the city in the distance, it’s a long walk thought this night-time trail, the path is well lit but not so well lit as to allow it to disturb the suggestion of darkest night. There is no sinister edge to the piece, it’s all delight, wonder and some seriously good moments of magical whimsy.  Like a crepuscular robotic nature watch we come across these aviaratic automata in this setting, suggesting behaviour and interactions where none can be.  For the Birds progresses though different natural settings, each lit with style and humour the gatherings become more complex, denser, all the time the artificial being at the forefront and yet it soon convinces it’s wild, not programmed or planned, but somehow spontaneous and natural.

Some of the pieces suggest random interactions while responding to their own fearsome mechanical symmetry, others an interaction that the whole environment is having with itself, like wandering miniaturised through the synaptic interchanges of the trees.  It’s a fun deceit and makes you ponder on the nature of nature, the similarities between programmed behaviour and instinct, the intersection of art and artifice. See more here

There are points where the subtle and beautiful art works from artist and producer Jony Easterby takes flight, escaping the cage of its instillation art and becoming something sublime in the night, a fluttering against the imagination, a beat of jet black wings summoning up some otherworldly pagan spirit, others when it’s like tripping in someone’s back garden with plenty of aww’s and ohhh’s along the way, but each have their charm. It’s laid out with touches of humour and playfulness but you leave wondering about how far our mechanical ways have replaced our everyday interactions with the natural world. If there was an overarching story, I missed it, as I missed the actual noises of the nocturnal wildlife scared off by the hefty tread, click and clatter of so many phones pulling us out of the experience and back to the Instagramed perfectly posed memory of so many keen seekers of sensation, like a disturbed short eared owl I blinked away the irony and rushed back to the softly glowing big yellow bus.

It’s only just manageable in the hour or so allotted, so be careful not to spend too long at the beginning of the trail, plough on; because the artworks become more complex and more interesting the further you penetrate into this nocturnal world. We rushed past the final few to ensure we caught the bus back and wished we had more time to linger, under the moon in the magical Sussex night.

Undisclosed Venue

For more info see here or on the Festival see their website here