Immigration and Domination, Landscape: For the Birds

How Soon is Now is currently showing at The Vancouver Art Gallery, featuring contemporary works of over thirty artists from British Columbia. Each piece is from local artists, but the ideas behind them are not limited to local issues. Many of these artists have displayed the effect of the globalized world within their local artworks.
Abbas Akhavan was born in Tehran Iran, but has been living in Canada for thirteen years, currently residing in Vancouver. His work entitled “Landscape: For the Birds” is an intriguing piece that explores the issues of immigration. There is nothing installed, instead the viewer is directed to the gallery window where they are instructed to listen to the starlings outside. As Vancouverites we may hear these starlings everyday but probably know very little about their history. Starlings are originally from Asia and Europe but sometime in the 19th century they were introduced to Canada and began to take over. Starting off with only ninety birds, their numbers are currently at 200 million. Starlings can easily adapt to urban life and nest anywhere. They are a particularly aggressive species of bird that are known for pushing other birds out of their nests. This fierce competitive nature usually results in them taking over from the once dominant local bird species.
By pointing to the viewer in the direction of these starlings, Akhavan is conjointly pointing out Canada’s own history of immigration. During the gold rush of 1890 people emigrated from Europe and Asia in vast numbers. These newcomers quickly built homes and drove out the native tribes. Comparable to starlings, these immigrants quickly took over and became the dominant ones.
“Landscape: For the birds” has successfully taken the global issue of immigration (of people and of birds) into a very localized area of the Vancouver Art Gallery. It shows how even a work that involves listening outside a window in Vancouver can point to worldwide issues.
by Kathryn Schmidt