Even though humans are capable of many things, we are still unable to fly. Is that the reason for our longtime fascination with flying animals? The exhibition at the National Ethnographic Museum explores the relations between humans and the kingdom of birds in many contexts – sculpture, superstitions, myths, and… birdwatching!
“Fly Away” refers to the seasonal migrations of birds during the autumn months. It’s a time of increased activity of the bird lovers among us as well – the bird watchers. Armed with binoculars, you’ll be able to sneak peeks at the birds in the exhibition, and perhaps see them in a completely different, unexpected light.
Those works are a record of a cultural phenomenon – the flourishing of native art in the postwar Poland. Having seen the sculptures featured in the exhibition, one can easily give into the narrative that they were created in a mythical symbiosis of the artists with “nature”. A closer look, however, reveals that their essence is more complex than that. Often, they are bird species not native to Poland, but sneaked straight out of atlases. Linden tree is sometimes coated with polystyrene foam, the bird modelled after a TV image or a memory from the ZOO.
We look at the depictions of birds in the museum’s collection to check how we talk and think about birds in our current cultural contexts, as well as ones distant in time and space. It’s because birds, from the very beginning, were the subject of myths and the heroes of magical tales. On the one hand, in fairytales, for example, birds were metaphors for human qualities and potential, and on the other hand, in myths and religions, they were the embodiments of gods themselves, the carriers of power, or beings dwelling on the border between worlds. Along with increased sensitivity towards the environment and nature, our relations with animals, including birds, became the subject of studies – animal studies and aviculture.
This exhibition commences a series of events celebrating the 130th anniversary of the National Ethnographic Museum’s existence in Warsaw. Information about the attractions accompanying the exhibition will be updated regularly via our website and our social media.
Exhibition curators: Patryk Pawlaczyk, Bratek Robotycki
Exhibition visual identification: Julia Mirny