Coal miners once hammered rock with twittering canaries living beside them, their changing song a warning alarm for a dangerous gas leak. These living sensors watched over us and kept us safe.
‘Singing Sentinels’ by London-based architect Liam Young of Tomorrows Thoughts Today explores a future scenario where bio-engineered birds once again monitor the air for us. Eighty birds have been released into the New Order exhibition at the Mediamatic Gallery in Amsterdam as an ecological warning system, living in the space and providing audible feedback on the state of the atmosphere. Across the course of the exhibition Liam performed the climate change acceleration piece 'Silent Spring' seen in the film above. As a 'pollution DJ', he flooded the gallery with CO2, altereing the air mixture to replicated the predicted atmospheric changes of the next 100 years. We hear the canary song subtly shift, their rythmn change and eventually silence, as the birds sing a toxic sky- an elegy for a changing planet.
To accompany the exhibition Liam Young, Geoff Manuagh and Tim Maly have written a near future birdwatchers guide "A Field Guide to Singing Sentinels: A Birdwatchers Companion" with illustrations from comic illustrator Paul Duffield. You can see an excerpt and purchase your copy of the limited edition book online here products.liamyoung.org/