feature film & expanded nonfiction (sonic essay, book chapter, paper)

Salvaging Birds traces the logics of environmental datafication through the lens of queer ecology. In the face of biodiversity loss, conservation efforts for avian and other species have turned to digital technologies, big data, and AI. Much like human their human counterparts, however, conservation technologies and datasets contain biases, misclassifications, and the potential to distract from the systemic causes of the problems they are purported to solve.

Experimenting with a form Livio calls “expanded nonfiction,” the centerpiece of Salvaging Birds is a film that speculatively queers conservation data, blending documentary with custom-trained AI animations and custom-trained AI birdsong (in production). The project’s multimodal set of works also includes a book chapter (2023), a sonic essay (2022), and a reserch paper (anticipated 2024). Together, they complicate datafied approaches to conserving what and who is left of our world.  

Supported by:
  • CalTech-Huntington Art + Research Residency
  • Fermynwoods Contemporary Art (UK)
  • New Music USA Creator Development Fund
  • School of Communication Faculty Research Grant, American University
  • Environmental Futures (with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation)

Outputs so far:
  • “Salvaging Birds: Expanded Nonfiction about Brown birds, Queer Ecologies, and Data” is published in Deep Horizons: A Multisensory Archive of Ecological Aspects and Prospects, Amherst College Press (2023)
  • “Salvaging Birds: Sonic Essay” was commissioned and presented by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art, UK (2022)

  • With special thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library, The Moore Lab of Zoology at Occidental College, Erin Espelie, Cassie McQuater, JP Merz, the Huntington Library, and Caltech.