February 24, 2016

Krista Caballero + Frank Ekeberg: Messengers of the Future

written by Kady Murzin, Exhibitions and Marketing Intern

Frank Ekeberg in Queensland, Australia researching and creating Birding the Future
Frank Ekeberg in Queensland, Australia creating Birding the Future

King of the Forest: Adventures in Bioperversity presents work by artists who have examined the destructive relationship humans have with the planet’s species.

As visitors enter AAC they are confronted by the sound of bird calls. While the sounds seem very real and familiar, they are instead recordings of endangered and extinct birds manipulated by artists Krista Caballero and Frank Ekeberg.

Through the installation Birding the Future, the artists use sounds, visuals, and texts, to pose the questions: how can technology be combined with the knowledge of our declining environment to increase awareness of extinct and endangered species? What does it mean to be able to only hear and see extinct and endangered species through technology?

Krista Caballero and Frank Ekeberg, Birding the Future (Queensland, Australia series documentation), stereoscope, stereoscopic images, sound installation, dimensions variable, 2013
Krista Caballero and Frank Ekeberg, Birding the Future (Queensland, Australia series documentation), stereoscope, stereoscopic images, sound

To highlight these questions, the artists extracted sounds from bird calls to create an audio that is a combination of bird calls and Morse code.

The recordings of bird calls of extinct birds were kept intact, while endangered bird calls were the ones translated into Morse Code.

Over the course of a day, the bird sounds decrease in density to align with the projected extinction rates of these species.

Along with the sound component, the artists have also created a visual element to further emphasize the loss of these species. Using a technique popular during the mid-nineteenth to the 20th century, stereoscopes combine two images in the brain to create the illusion of depth.

'Birding the Future' in Dubai
Birding the Future in Dubai

Ekeberg and Caballero have created multiple stereoscopic cards that remind the user of humanity’s impact on the environment. That human growth and advancement has led to the extinction and endangerment of multiple species throughout history.

As one of the stereoscopic cards read, Swift Parrots are at risk of extinction because the forests where they breed are being destroyed.

To learn more about this, and to share it with you, I was lucky enough to interview Krista Caballero and Frank Ekeberg about the project and resulting installation. Read on to learn more about the project and what it took to put it together.

What inspired you to collaborate on this project?

We initially met at ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Art) in 2012. We quickly realized we shared similar interests, approaches, and goals — wanting to make artwork that is speaking to the critical issues of our time.

Why did you choose to study bird populations instead of another species that is extinct or endanger of extinction?

Krista Caballero in Queensland, Australia creating Birding the Future
Krista Caballero in Queensland, Australia creating Birding the Future

We were interested in how some bird calls already are reminiscent of Morse code. Morse code messaging is a simple means of communication that itself is falling out of use, and is today primarily a way of signaling emergency when other technologies fail.

This caught our attention because as bioindicators, birds offer early warning signals about environmental health, warning of disruption and urgency in almost every ecosystem.  A concrete example one can think about is how canaries were brought into coal mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gasses, primarily carbon monoxide.

Historically, birds have also been seen as “message bearers” able to communicate the future, announce changes in weather and warn of coming disaster.  At times representing particular gods or ascribed supernatural powers, across culture and continent birds have served as important symbols in art, song and ceremony.

What message do you hope visitors take away after experiencing your installation?

We hope to heighten awareness on issues of species extinction via a participatory installation where our research is translated to a human scale.  Our goal is for people to engage their surrounding environment in new ways and better comprehend the long-term results of human activities.

Our hope is to heighten perceptual awareness and provide a historical link to human impact on the environment — challenging the viewer to consider how the filters through which one looks/listens then translate into ways knowledge is constructed.

In the installation, this is done via decreasing the density and diversity of bird calls being played back over the duration of each day based upon projected extinction rates. This embodied experience is further emphasized by utilizing a type of stereoscope that resembles binoculars, which reference the practice of birding.  Our hope is to heighten perceptual awareness and provide a historical link to human impact on the environment — challenging the viewer to consider how the filters through which one looks/listens then translate into ways knowledge is constructed.

What’s next for Birding the Future?

Krista Caballero and Frank Ekeberg, Birding the Future, detail of Australia Goes Purple from the Queensland, Australia series, stereoscope, stereoscopic images, sound installation, dimensions variable, 2013
Krista Caballero and Frank Ekeberg, Birding the Future, detail of Australia Goes Purple from the Queensland, Australia series

The next phase of Birding the Future will investigate migratory connectivity and how it relates to the historical record of bird extinction and cultural shifts.

A dynamic intermedia installation, incorporating multi-channel sound spatialization and 3D video modeling, will highlight the movements of migratory birds and reveal how dangers in one place can affect ecologies elsewhere.


King of the Forest: Adventures in Bioperversity will be on display until April 3, with a panel discussion and closing reception slated for Saturday, April 2.
Also currently on view at AAC, resident artist Rachel Schmidt’s solo exhibition Daydreams in the Anthropocene, on the Upper Level, and Instructor Select 2016, featuring work by AAC students and instructors, on the Lower Level.

In Conversation: Nekisha Durrett + Zaq Landsberg

Saturday / April 27 / 1pm-3pm

Innovation Studio + Store

Join artists Zaq Landsberg and Nekisha Durrett for a conversation about the rewards and challenges of public art and the complex nature of monuments and memorials.

Performances by Isa Leal & Liz Ensz + Skye Fort in conversation with NO GRIDS NO MASTERS

Saturday / April 20 / 6pm-8pm

MoCA Arlington

An evening of performances by Isa Leal and Liz Ensz + Skye Fort in conversation with Ensz’s exhibition NO GRIDS NO MASTERS currently on view at MoCA Arlington.

2024 Art Classes for Kids, Teens, and Adults!

Register now! Classes begin April 7!

Less than 2 weeks left to register! Sign up today to secure your spot in one of MoCA Arlington’s award-winning programs! From drawing and painting to ceramics and mixed media, you are sure to find an inspiring art class. Enrich your creative journey with our talented instructors and explore the world of art in a fun and supportive environment.

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