In A Confounding Mimicry, married collaborators Jenny Kendler & Brian Kirkbride employ field recordings, magical realism and synesthetic image-to-audio processing to present a seemingly straightforward nature recording that is anything but.
After recording the birds of the Monteverde cloud forest, some of which sounded uncannily unnatural, Kendler & Kirkbride set about to create a menagerie of natural-sounding, but completely fabricated “birds” to situate within the original recording. Using specialized software, they distilled photographs of the ferns into sounds, which they arranged to imitate birdsong. Just as the Fern Room itself mimics a natural environment, ferns now mimic birds, and the visual becomes the vocal.
Finding it difficult to summarize the piece simply, Kendler & Kirkbride chose instead to further complicate the distinction between the actual and the fantastical through accompanying text. Situated amongst the ferns, fragmentary excerpts from two alternate narratives describe the origin of the “recording.” The first purports to be the journal of a historical scientific expedition to locate the bird-mimicking ferns, while the second documents the artists’ process in developing the piece itself.
The title, A Confounding Mimicry, taken from a passage in the fictional journal, reminds us that the complexities of nature are not reducible. Mimicry is rampant in both nature and culture; what you see—or hear—may not be what you get. Destabilizing the boundary between the real and the created, Mimicry reminds us to question the habitual ways in which we encounter the natural world.
Curated by Lou Mallozzi for Experimental Sound Studio’s Florasonic sound installation series, a partnership with the Chicago Park District’s Lincoln Park Conservatory.
July 24, 2016 – January 8, 2017
Fern Room at Lincoln Park Conservatory
2391 N Stockton Drive, Chicago
About the Artists
Jenny Kendler is an interdisciplinary artist, environmental activist, forager & naturalist based in Chicago and elsewhere. Her intimate sculptures and interactive projects have been exhibited nationally & internationally at museums and biennials including the Albright-Knox, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, MCA Chicago, iMOCA, DePaul Art Museum, Yeosu International Art Festival and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. She has been commissioned to create public projects for locations as diverse as downtown Louisville and a Costa Rican tropical forest. She is Vice-President of artist residency ACRE, and co-founder of OtherPeoplesPixels and The Endangered Species Print Project. Kendler is the first ever Artist-in-Residence with environmental non-profit NRDC.
Brian Kirkbride experiments with music/sound/noise by fusing field recordings, synthesizers, records and films through extreme, conceptually-driven digital processing. For over two decades, he has deejayed and produced both remixes and original music. In 2014 he collaborated with Jenny Kendler on Tell it to the Birds — an interactive sound art installation commissioned by environmental non-profit NRDC, which debuted at the EXPO CHICAGO art fair and was reprised in 2015 for a joint exhibition of the Art Institute of Chicago & The Arts Club of Chicagoat Millennium Park. Kirkbride has been involved in the Chicago arts community since 2005, when he founded OtherPeoplesPixels, a service enabling artists to share their work online.