Sara Angelucci’s intriguing series titled Aviary recalls the past to create strange portraits of birds that are superimposed onto anonymous nineteenth century cartes-de-visite (small, business card sized) photographs. It began by the artist studying the American Victoria area, and she connects its cultural, social, and ecological aspects conceptually to her work.
The nineteenth century was the United States’ colonial era when there was unprecedented expansion, exploration, and an interest in science and art. Family photo albums and commemorating memories were something new, as photography became increasingly common. The collection of cartes-de-visites were like trading cards, and the urge to collect didn’t stop there. People had cabinets of curiosities that included things like taxidermied birds, an interest that lead to the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Angelucci explains in a statement about the work, writing, “Made by combining photographs of endangered or extinct North American birds with anonymous nineteenth century cartes-de-visite portraits—they portray creatures about to become ghosts.”
So how do we read these strange human-birdlike creatures? One could at once see them as manifestations of their time: a hybrid crossover of faith in science with a belief in otherworldly beings. As W. G. Sebald writes in Campo Santo, “[photography is] in essence, after all…nothing but a way of making ghostly apparitions materialize by means of a very dubious magical art.” And, what would it mean to embody another creature: Could one then see, feel, and understand its desire to live? Might we then imagine the Aviary portraits as chimera suspended in a state of empathy, and wonder what our treatment of other sentient beings might be if we could feel what they feel, or see what they see? (Via Observer: Design Observer)