Séance

By GREG COOK  |  December 9, 2009

The flock seems to be all the same bird, with smallish bodies, large fanned tails, and heads all cocked to the right. Berwick says they're cast from a preserved passenger pigeon. The glass walls of the case act as one-way mirrors: you can see in past a faint reflection of yourself, but the opposite sides reflect the tree inside.

The effect is beautiful and surreal, though on sustained looking the sameness of the birds can grow somewhat dull. What continues to resonate is Berwick's thinking. The tree resembles natural history museum dioramas or 17th-century paintings of various birds unnaturally hanging out together, which seem to be a goofy response to specimens shipped back to Europe during the age of Western imperial exploration and its prospecting for natural resources to exploit. The glowing translucent copal brings up associations of lost ancient flora and fauna preserved "trapped in amber." It's like a congress of ghosts. Not needing to be spoken is how their demise is our fault.

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