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Sutapa Biswas
7 mins 7 secs colour 16mm to DVD
double screen installation


A two-screen film installation with a horse in a domestic interior.

Birdsong is a large-scale double-screen film installation. As an artwork, it continues to engage with ideas around time and temporality, and the relationship between painting and film. Based on a conversation with the artist's son who, when eighteen months of age, expressed his desire to have a horse living with them in their home, it is a film tableau in which a horse is viewed in a domestic interior, standing motionless except for the gentle and subtle movements of its body. Seen through the eyes of a child, the work takes us between the real and the imaginary or dream world. Making subliminal references to historical British landscape genre paintings by artists such as John Constable and James Seymour, Birdsong specifically references George Stubb's painting, Henry Fox and the Earl of Albermarle Shooting at Goodwood (c.1759), which depicts a hunting scene of the aristocracy at play attended by their servants. To the left of the image we see a black male servant holding his master's horse, his expression that of calmness, and alluding to his admiration for his masters. Stubb's painting suggests a resignation of status: an implied inevitability in terms of the master/slave equation. Birdsong as a work visually and poetically unsettles our perceptions of time and place.

''Time has always been a significant theme in Sutapa Biswas's work. But in her new installation ''Birdsong'' (2004), time has become a more explicit theme and she uses the formal attributes of the moving image to evoke questions about the relationship between temporalities and the human imagination.'' (Laura Mulvey, from the essay 'Birdsong', in SUTAPA BISWAS, published by the Institute of International Visual Arts, London, and The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Portland, Oregon, 2004.)

Birdsong was commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, London, and the Institute of International Visual Arts, London, and realised with the generous support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK, and Chelsea College of Art and Design.

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