Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Lukas Felzmann: Swarm

Copyright @ Lukas Felzmann

My main bird-connection is this: In the morning, I regularly put bread crumbs on my balcony. Shortly afterwards quite some birds arrive. Sometimes, in the middle of their picking up crumbs, they all of a sudden, and without an apparent cause (at least for me), leave, all of them together.
My other bird-connection has to do with my occasionally observing swarms: it is a spectacle that fascinates me. It has so far never occurred to me to relate birds to sounds but when reading Peter Pfrunder's introduction to Lukas Felzmann's Swarm, I wondered how it was possible that this had escaped me.

Copyright @ Lukas Felzmann

"We hear them flapping, we hear them screeching. Sometimes quieter and softer, sometimes more intense and more shrill, then the clamor ebbs away into a distant, background noise – and then rises again suddenly ... It might sound like a paradox, but viewing the Swarm photographs of Lukas Felzmann is also an acoustic experience." Although I like this thought, in my experience it mostly is not – nevertheless, I will keep on trying.

Spending time with this tome essentially means to be left wondering for, as Peter Pfrunder rightly states, "the signatures that the birds write in the sky don't allow any kind of clear interpretation." Unfortunately, he then proceeds to give us exactly this kind of interpretation by saying that the photographer "collects signs, bestowed on him by chance – mysterious hieroglyphics for an imaginary archive. And he invites us to read these symbols as aesthetic figures, as a language of the unconscious."

I beg to differ: We are neither shown signs nor symbols, we are shown birds in fascinating formations.

Copyright @ Lukas Felzmann

On the other hand, interpret we must – there is no communication without interpretation. The one that Gordon H. Orians contributes in "The Significance of Grouping in Blackbirds" is especially useful for it is based on observations. I learn that flock movements follow rules that are different from our own social lives – there is no leader.
And then there's Deborah M. Gordon's convincing text "Control without Hierarchy" that extends this point by concluding: "Although we are so accustomed to hierarchy that we think of it as necessary, it is rare in nature."

This could indicate that our obsession with hierarchy might be caused by ego, not by natural necessity.

Also: Lukas Felzman reports how his photographs came about – this is helpful information for it gives the viewer the chance to participate in the photographic process. By the way, most of the birds shown in this tome are red-winged blackbirds and their flight differs from the one of starlings that Felzman had observed in Europe.

And now, just look and see.

Lukas Felzmann
Lars Müller Publishers, Baden 2011

No comments: