Emma Rooney

Birdlandia - Installation using a hair net-bird net, arrows made with found objects, found unread books, audio of field recordings, watercolours of translations of recordings of bird calls-songs, digital video documented birds in habitats, drawings - study of taxidermy bower bird (blind contour), crow skull and egg.    
In a time of growing awareness of mass extinction of bird species. The field recordings are from my various walks and camps in the blue mountains and beyond in the past year. Also recordings from my home in Hazelbrook, Blue Mountains, both from inside through a skylight and outside in the backyard.

An avid bushwalker of 30 odd years, interested in how bird sound resonates in its own environment, I have transposed once live sound, to a place where it reverberates among museological objects. The aim is to capture the sensory experience of the immediate surrounds while walking, with the work recording the process of collecting as an integral part of the collection itself. This process re-contextualises audio fragments, placing and displacing part from whole, object from collection, the sensory experience of walking from the gathering of materials.

The recordings track variously across day and night, from dawn chorus to night owls and back again, generating further dislocations among recording object (or medium), bird and sound and generating a once live soundscape of song, calls and cries to the museum’s taxidermy of exotic birds preserved for the sake of curiosity and wonder. A cacophony of chaotic cries, and calm.

The hair nets are also wilful de-contextualisations. From work made 25 years ago, I unstitched and restitched threads to create one large bird net, now multiply suggestive (veil, fascination, hair net, softener, protector, trap).

Arrows made, are fictitious ( non-functional ) museum objects, hunting tools. The complexity, and interchangeable nature of the hunter and the hunted. The idea of intention and inaccuracy, and intervention. The ‘hit and miss’ of translation.  Limitations and use of language. Typewriter ribbon arrow tips denote writing and recording as act of hunting, aiming, the feather tip as quill. Feathers collected on walks. Exotic feathers used in hunting (fly fishing) but also for finery (hats, fashion accessories ). Arrow stems / shafts made from dried formosan lily- a weed found on roadside (a liminal zone).

Waveform paintings visualise sound, an alternate way of perceiving sound. A reminder of a pulse and its rhythmic connection to heart and breath. Translation of a recording from digital screen, to paper and brush, encased in an expandable book, with a hard cover that in itself, functions as a stand for viewing. A silent song, alongside an audible song, both tracked and captured, recorded. The bird sounds fleeting, whilst listening.

Colour oscillations of bird calls in a museum space amongst once living birds, with exotic plumage.
A presence sensed through the absence of birds. Receptivity, an invisible net. Translation as something ‘other’- a removal from source/origin. The etymology of ‘record’ and its link to ‘heart’- ‘cord’, to ‘learn by heart’.

Emma Rooney is an artist and high school teacher based in the Blue Mountains. Graduated with Bachelor of Visual Arts at UWS in 1990, and then competed a Master of Art (coursework) at COFA in 1995, and a Dip Ed. at UWS in 2000. After practicing and exhibiting as an installation artist in 1991-2000, in various galleries and spaces in Sydney and West of Sydney and also in Norway, (on an international symposium).  Emma is a re-emerging artist. Her work in the past and recently, has included site specific installation work, using found and made objects, drawings, video and photography.

Links to images and sound online: