In my ongoing research, I am exploring the possibility to replace some of the bird species with artificial ones. Should bird populations decline drastically in the near future, could fake birds replace them and contribute to keeping the natural balance of a forest intact? The question might sound a bit fanciful at first but it is inspired by scientific papers about insect-eating plants, the extinction of bird species, and the impact their disappearance would have on our forests.
In 1987, scientists William J. Mattson and Robert A. Haack in their paper “The Role of Drought in Outbreaks of Plant-eating Insects” suggested that insects can hear the sound emissions produced by trees and based on this sound determine whether or not a tree has any use for them. Trees emit sound during the cavitation process. It happens when water is traveling from the ground and up to the branches. Periods of drought result in fewer sound emissions and promote outbreaks of plant-eating fungi and insects, especially bark beetles and leaf feeders.
According to the World Wide Fund, bird populations will severely decrease in the near future. As a consequence, insect populations will thrive and the most voracious plant-eating ones will slowly eat away our forests, that in turn will result in a sharp drop in the production of fresh air on the planet.
Inspired by these two papers, I started to wonder if it is possible to replace some of the bird species with artificial ones. I was curious to see if they would scare away the plant-eating insects and help to maintain ecological balance in a forest. In 2016 I installed 30 custom-made woodpeckers in a forest near Dusseldorf. Every week I visited the forest, documented the ‘health’ of the artificial woodpeckers, and observed how the inhabitants of the forest interacted with them. During this month 3 of my woodpeckers got destroyed. One of the woodpeckers might have been attacked by a squirrel. I found it destroyed next to a tree with some nut shells around it. The second one was upside down hanging on a tree. This one I set up near a tree with a bird’s nest to see if there will be some interaction. The third one got destroyed by a violent storm. It was broken apart and hanging in a string on a branch. It was an emotional experience taking it down, it was still working, and the woodpecker gave me the feeling of an injured animal struggling.
This part of this research ended in 2017. To finish it up I have created 10 limited edition DIY kits of the artificial Woodpecker. The body of a woodpecker is a pop-out puzzle. Inside you will find all the parts and detailed instructions on how to build your own woodpecker. The only thing you need to buy separately is a battery and a soldering iron.
– 2019 28 May – 2021. 28. May, MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna, Design Lab, AT
– 2018 7 June – 14 September, “Jak lesy myslí / V houštině vztahů”, OGV gallery, Jihlava, CZ
– 2018 1. – 15 June, “Robotonica”, Amsterdam Tolhuistuin, NL
– 2018 20 May – 8 June, “Machine Wilderness”, Amsterdam Amstelpark Glazen Huis, NL
– 2017 21. – 29 October, “Dutch Design Week”, Eindhoven, NL
– 2017 17 September – 2018. 18 May, “Robotanica”, Gallery Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NL
– 2017 21. – 23 August, “Balance Unbalance”, Plymouth, UK
– 2017 8. – 11 June, “ArtVilnius” Art Fair, Vilnius, LT
– 2016 17 October – 6 November, “Higienisti”, Liepaja Museum, Liepaja, LV
-2016 18 August – 4 September, “RAM”, RIXC gallery, Riga, LV