|I C A N E W S R E L E A S E|
Contact: Jill Katz
Director of Marketing & Communications
Institute of Contemporary Art
University of Pennsylvania
118 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3289
Tel. (215) 898-7108/5911
Fax: (215) 898-5050
Words and Birds!Join ICA For Its 3rd Annual Summer Whenever Wednesday
An Evening on the Terrace of Art, Poetry, Film, and Music
July 13, 2005, 7pm, FREE with admission
June 30, 2005
The Birdpeople, 2004 (video still), 16mm film transferred to DVD, 61 minutes
Directed by Michael Gitlin
"Words and Birds" celebrates the height of summer with an outdoor evening on the terrace of nature and culture at the Institute of Contemporary Art. First the words: renowned poets Tom Devaney, Alan Gilbert, Sharon Mesmer, and Susan Stewart will read from their work, featuring the poems they wrote to accompany ICA's current exhibition Springtide. Then at dusk a screening of The Birdpeople offers a look at birdwatchers the way birdwatchers look at birds. This acclaimed 2004 independent film, a festival favorite, will be introduced by filmmaker Michael Gitlin; screening time:61 minutes.
The evening will take place on ICA's outdoor terrace where a musical interlude of birdsong will usher in dusk. Hear the original them music to Woody Woodpecker, among other avian rhapsodies, and toast the re-discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker--thought to be extinct for more than half a century. A large, dramatic looking bird, the ivory-billed woodpecker, known to be quite shy, was recently found in the 'Big Woods' region of eastern Arkansas. On the sighting of the woodpecker, U.S. National Audubon Society's Frank Gill says, "It is kind of like finding Elvis!"
(b. 1969, Philadelphia, PA; lives in Philadelphia, PA). Devaney is the author of Letters to Ernesto Neto (Germ Folios, 2005) and The American Pragmatist Fell in Love (Banshee Press, 1999). A Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Pennsylvania, he is coordinator of the Kelly Writers House and produces the monthly radio show "Live," on 88.5-FM WXPN. Devaney's poetry has been published in the catalog for "Greater New York" at P.S.1 and in Arsenal, Java, Poesie, and Double Change. In the summer of 2004 he conducted a series of tours of the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site called "The Empty House" for the ICA's show "The Big Nothing."
(b. 1969, Fargo, ND; lives in Brooklyn, NY). Gilbert's writings on poetry, art, culture, and politics have appeared in a variety of publications, including Artforum, Bomb, and the Boston Review. Recent poems have been published in The Baffler, Chicago Review, and First Intensity. A collection of critical writings entitled Another Future: Poetry and Art in a Postmodern Twilight will be published in 2006 by Wesleyan University Press.
(b. 1960, Chicago, IL; lives in Brooklyn, NY). The author of Half Angel, Half Lunch (Hard Press, 1998,) and The Empty Quarter: Stories (Hanging Loose Press, 2000) teaches writing and literature at the New School University in Manhattan and is the English-language editor of American Book Jam, a Japanese literary magazine. A new book of short stories, In Ordinary Time (Hanging Loose Press, 2005,) is one of several current projects.
(b. 1952, York, PA; lives in Princeton, NJ and Philadelphia, PA). A poet and critic, Stewart's publications include her recent book of prose, The Open Studio: Essays in Art and Aesthetics (University of Chicago Press, 2005) and her most recent book of poetry, Columbarium (University of Chicago Press, 2003,) which won the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award.
In the tradition of recent documentaries such as The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, man's relationship to birds is a story worth telling. NYC filmmaker Michael Gitlin's film is based on a loosely-knit community of birdwatchers in New York's Central Park; ornithologists with their specimen collections at a dozen different natural history museums; bird banders gingerly extracting birds from mist nets and collecting data in upstate New York; and six people searching for an extinct bird in a Louisiana bayou.
These are the strands that are woven together by The Birdpeople as it documents a particular fixation. Part cultural history, part self-reflexive anthropology, The Birdpeople investigates the social construction of nature, centered on ornithology and its amateur counterpart, birdwatching.
The story of the disappearance of the ivory-billed woodpecker is not only about what has vanished, it's also about what remains. There are over 400 ivory-billed study skins, or specimen mounts, in natural history museums and university collections around the world. The Birdpeople gathers together dozens of ivory-billed specimens as a kind of impossible recuperation of the species, an elegiac recovery through images, that uses as its centerpiece the early 19th-century artist and naturalist Alexander Wilson's heartbreaking account of his encounter with an ivory-billed in a Wilmington North Carolina hotel room.
"What makes Michael Gitlin's film extraordinary is the way it represents birding as a special way of seeing," says Fred Camper of the Chicago Reader. "Close-ups of birds in the field isolated by surrounding branches in soft focus are paralleled by jerky zoom-ins on book pages or stuffed specimens, echoing the way the collector's eye homes in on prized treasures."
This program is a collaboration with Kelly Writers House and Penn Cinema Studies.
ICA is grateful for support provided by the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, The Christian R. & Mary F. Lindback Foundation and The Honickman Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. (Information complete as of 6/29/05.)
Program subject to change.
ICA is located at 118 South 36th Street at the University of Pennsylvania. ICA is open to the public, except during installation, from 12:00pm to 8:00pm on Wednesday through Friday and from 11:00am to 5:00pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for students over 12, artists, and senior citizens; and free to ICA members, children 12 and under, PENN card holders, and on Sundays from 11:00am to 1:00pm. For more information, call 215-898-7108/5911.
Institute of Contemporary Art
Founded in 1963 as part of the University of Pennsylvania, ICA presents a year-round exhibition schedule that defines, analyzes, and explores the contemporary visual arts. A non-collecting museum, ICA offers one-person, thematic, and group exhibitions, including commissioned works. ICA diversifies its examination of art to include interdisciplinary work such as film, video, performance, architecture, and design. ICA plays a vital role in introducing American audiences to rising international artists and is also committed to the regional arts community. ICA has been at the forefront of contemporary art for 40 years, presenting the first museum solo exhibitions of artists Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Lisa Yuskavage, Charles LeDray and many others.