SALVAGING BIRDS

(ongoing)

expanded nonfiction project

In the face of human-caused biodiversity loss, conservation efforts for avian and countless other species have turned to data. Much like human datasets, however, conservation datasets are an imperfect tool. They contain biases and misclassifications, are collected through harmful practices, and have the potential to distract from the systemic causes of the problems they are purported to solve. Salvaging Birds traces these logics of environmental datafication. Experimenting with a form that Livio calls “expanded nonfiction,” it is a research-driven project consisting of an essay, a podcast, and a short film currently in development. These iterations weave together custom AI-generated birdsong, custom AI-generated animation, 3D imaging, music, and writing. By examining sites such as natural history specimen collections, as well as by speculatively queering birdsong datasets, the work complicates datafied approaches to conserving what and who is left of our world.  

Supported by:
  • CalTech-Huntington Art + Research Residency
  • New Music USA Creator Development Fund
  • Environmental Futures initiative (with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation)

Notes:
  • “Salvaging Birds: A Sonic Essay” was commissioned by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, UK. 
  • “Salvaging Birds: Expanded Nonfiction about Brown birds, Queer Ecologies, and Data,” is a book chapter forthcoming in an edited collection from Amherst College Press (in press, winter 2022). 
  • With special thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library, the Huntington Library, Caltech, and Erin Espelie.