The Library Built for the Birds

Mark Dion Library for the Birds of London.JPG

Mark Dion. The Library for the Birds of London (detail) 2018. Mixed media; steel, wood, books, zebra finches, and found objects. Installation view of Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World at Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2018. Photo: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire

  

At Mark Dion's new exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London (through May 13) visitors can step inside The Library for the Birds of London, a giant birdcage, library of sorts, and aviary -- a temporary home to 22 zebra finches as well as 600 books devoted to ornithology, environmentalism, literature, and the natural sciences. It is a thought-provoking and joyful bombardment of birds and historically important books about birds that challenges viewers to engage with the social finches (their chirps are projected with help of microphones suspended from the cage).

 

Mark Dion Library for the Birds of London 1.JPG

Mark Dion. Hunting Blind (The Librarian) 2008. Mixed media, 522x180x180cm. Installation view of Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World at Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2018. Photo: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire

  

Although the books aren't rare themselves, the overall effect is to create a discussion about the role and history of the naturalist, scientist, and explorer as communicator and processor of nature. Dion's artwork is usually comprised of often large-scale installations that play with our cultural ideas of the natural world and how we attempt to make order of it in personal and institutional collections. In this latest exhibition, a retrospective of installations since 2000, Dion continues to plumb his obsession with cabinets of curiosities, natural specimens, and the books about them and how nature is organized, managed, controlled, and exploited by humans. 

 

Mark Dion Hunting Blind (The Librarian).JPG

Mark Dion. The Library for the Birds of London (detail) 2018. Mixed media; steel, wood, books, zebra finches, and found objects. Installation view of Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World at Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2018. Photo: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire

  

The majority of the installations are oozing with books; there are books in an installation set up like a naturalist's study, as well as a hunting blind raised off the floor that serves as a library. Each installation provokes and pokes fun at our attempt to understand and classify our natural world. Dion's work both brings nature closer to us, and to our attempts to understand what nature is -- the pursuit of knowledge can simultaneously honor and harm our environment, the desire for understanding can be beautiful and enriching, and it can also be disturbing. There are many ways to interpret Dion's newest work, but for the book-and-bird obsessed, it may approach the ecstatic experience of spotting a rare species in the wild.

FB&C Resource Guide Logo
Book Dealer: Antiquarian & Rare
(303) 777-7653
Book Dealer: Antiquarian & Rare
(905) 424-2641
Book Dealer: Antiquarian & Rare
(256) 725-2558
Book Dealer: Antiquarian & Rare
(978) 474-9120