Céleste Boursier-Mougenot

Barbican—The Curve

Zebra finches are small, variously colored birds native to central Australia. They live in groups, enjoy plentiful singing, and often exhibit elaborate striped plumage and fanciful markings. In artist and sometime musician Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s recent commission, forty zebra finches occupied one end of the Curve, the Barbican’s semicircular, corridor-like gallery wrapped around the outside of a vast concert hall. Revisiting an idea explored in some of his earlier works, Boursier-Mougenot provided the birds with food, water, and grass—plus nine electric guitars and three basses, all plugged in and amplified, lying flat and fastened onto metal stands about four feet off the ground. The birds flew freely, inadvertently making music when they landed on the horizontal strings, offering random plucking, brusque staccato riffs, or maybe a thunderous power-rock chord when a small flock of

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