about Bird needs shelter



     In 2009 I started the project, Bird needs shelter. This project focuses on how we deal with nature. In order to realize this project, I spent a year doing research in Paris, from April 2010 to the end of March 2011, where I had a studio at the Cité International des arts. During that period and in the years that followed, I collected a great lot of material and I made hundreds of photos in natural history museums in Rotterdam, Nantes, Lille, London, Brussels, Berlin, Bern, Basel, St Petersburg, Cairo and Paris.

     The structure of Bird needs shelter is formed by four imaginary characters, each of which represents a way in which you can stand in life: hunter, gastronome, scientist and artist. For hunter, I approached the bird from the hunter's perspective and how you can control and dominate nature. For gastronome I looked for ways to prepare poultry and enjoy the taste of their meat. For scientist I considered the bird from an ornithological scientific perspective, to collect species and to be able to categorize them into systems and tables. And for artist, I approached the bird from a poetic point of view and gave room to my admiration for their beauty and their capability to fly.

     After I started the project, it quickly went from one discovery to another. For example, I was allowed to photograph the estate of one of the last private Dutch ornithologists and I was allowed to take photos in the depots of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam and later in the Zoiological Museum of St Petersburg. And during my stay in Paris I collected a lot of new material, in antiquarian bookshops and markets, in museums and sometimes in very unexpected places. I found books on gastronomy, hunting and taxidermy and took many photos in the depots of the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, leading for example to a series of 80 photos of extinct and critically endangered birds (Lost).

     I also made countless photos of how the birds are stored in the depots. The contrast between the care with which the species are taxidermically arranged in their natural posture and the steel shelving in which they are stored was staggering… almost like 'merchandise' on the shelves at IKEA. It was also very special to find eggs from the early days of ornithological science, the 17th and early 18th centuries, with all the information about the place and time of discovery written on them. I also found drawers with a whole collection of bird nests. And I made a rather cruel series of pictures of bird heads on formalin, which evoked associations with preserved fruit.

     In the years that followed, I have continued to work steadily on the Bird needs shelter project to this day.


     Wilmering's œuvre comprises projects, installations, collages, photography, paintings and text works. He also produces numerous artists' books.  In his work, he continually investigates, not without humour, his position as both person and artist. The mirror-effect between the artist and his public is an important element in his work. In his collages, he takes his images out of context in the same way as he repeatedly takes himself, as an artist, out of the context of general artistic practice. Photography is a recurring element within his different series.

     His photography, his various collage series, paintings, installations, multiples and books are all born of his feeling that reality consists of “pretty aimless chains of coincidences and absurd situations, in which it's easy to lose your way”.

His works are constructed from pseudo-events, stories that run parallel to reality, in which he has made sudden shifts and enlargements.

     In his work, all collages are invariably made by hand. He cuts out images and integrates them with other pictures, as neatly as possible and always according to the correct perspective of the photo. Wilmering wilfully makes no use of Photoshop and remarks: “The time-consuming work involved in making these collages is for me a statement for 'slow art' and a humanistic sense of proportion.”

     Luuk Wilmering's project, Bird needs shelter, was largely created during his work period in the Holsboer studio in Paris. Bird needs shelter is concerned with the duplicitous character of man's dealings with nature. In this four-part series, birds and our relationship with them form the central subject. The series shows how man, through 'abuse of power', causes the extinction of certain species, how birds are hunted and how they should be properly served and eaten. However, the series also shows the possibilities of escape: the Egghouses and the birds that disappear into nature and are cut out and doubled by the artist.  

     The structure of the work is defined by four imaginary figures each of whom stands for a certain mentality: the gastronome, the scientist, the hunter and the artist. Around these characters, Wilmering has spent two years making four installations, which connect and refer to each other. For this project, which is not yet completed, he has realized more than a hundred drawings, coloured-in photos, designs and collages, and has made hundreds of photos, including many taken in the Musée national d'Histoire Naturelle.

Marieke Wiegel, 2011 (in Une histoire naturelle)

Luuk Wilmering