Wee-weep • Great Favourites at Court
P’tsoo-ée, tsoo-ée, tsoo-ée
dür, dür, dür, dür, dür, dür
“Songs of Wild Birds” by EM Nicholson and Ludwig Koch, first published in 1936, tries to help us understand the language of birds through written interpretation of their calls and songs. But can we really capture the beauty and lyrical nuances of bird song through our clumsy phonetic utterances? The sounds may be familiar but the language is unknown to us: it’s not my language, it’s not your language.
During the residency, I hand embroidered the interpretation of five birds from the book onto cotton fabric: goldcrest, wood warbler, great tit, stock dove and lapwing.
“Wee-weep” is a silent artwork about sound, with only your own internal voice reading the ‘words’ or speaking them aloud. When bird numbers decline and disappear from our landscape will these phrases be all that remain?
— Rebecca Chesney
Great Favourites at Court, 2022
My latest work considers how the canary became the canary. In reading the text contained in this 19th century illustrated book I noticed that many of the phrases used by the writer echoed the sentences trotted out by historians when describing captured and enslaved Africans and their role in the enrichment of Europe.
They were captured in large numbers.
They became great favourites at court.
There are several authentic cases on record of its learning to pronounce a few words articulately.
Not much has changed in four hundred years.
— Lubaina Himid