Look at the troubles happening in our world!

Anarchy — discontent — upheaval!

Desperate fights over territory, water, and food!

Poisoned air! Unhappiness!

I fear we are lost. We must do something!

I’ve seen the world. I know many secrets.

Listen to me: I know of a king who has all the answers.

We must go and find him.”

From The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar, 1170

Backdrop and idea

Birds, symbols of freedom, full of beauty and magic, are present in every aspect of our culture. We have coevolved with birds. The neuron anatomy of human speech and birdsong share structural features. Some studies suggest that human language might have evolved from birdsong. Birds are part of our identity and the diversity of birds, by the nature of their existence, keeps our ecosystems healthy and thriving.

But an imminent silence is looming as the number of European birds are declining at an alarming rate. We have lost 20% in the last few decades and many species are at risk of disappearing all together. Numbed by numbers and statistics we humans also get overcome by silence. However, the stories behind these figures, how birds in certain places are affected by loss of habitat, invasive species, pesticides and climate change, can help us grasp and make these abstract problems we are all facing more tangible and emotionally touching.

Migrating birds show us that the problems facing us all on this planet are beyond borders, disciplines and species.

In the epic poem The Conference of the Birds (1170) the Persian poet Farid ud-Din Attar gives voice to the birds that recognize many of the problems affecting our lives and birds’ lives still in this day. Data provided by scientists show alarming declines of bird populations and as our shared landscapes get silenced, people also get numbed by numbers and statistics. However, the stories behind these figures, how birds are affected by loss of habitat, invasive species, pesticides and climate change, can help us grasp and make these abstractions more tangible and emotionally touching as well as recognising the cultural and emotional importance of bird life in human culture.


The project was initiated and its foundations shaped by Eva Bakkeslett and Heli Aaltonen, supported by NTNU in Trondheim. Together they planned and organised the initial gathering on the 8th-13th of June 2018 on Engeløya in North-Norway, and invited co-curators and advisors from the different Nordic countries and Russia to come. The meeting got financial support from the Nordic Culturefund and the Barents Secretariat. In this initial 4-day meeting our aim was to meet and share knowledge, inspire each other, plan the project together and start laying the foundation for the application process for further funding. The meeting was a success and also included a public event where several of the participants presented short performances or talks to the local public in the municipality of Steigen.

There were several news articles written about the event.

Curatorial team:

Eva Bakkeslett, Artist and curator, NO

Ulrika Jansson, Artist and curator, SE

Ulla Taipele, curator, FI

Advisory team:

Karoliina Lummaa, PhD, Professor of Literature, University of Turku, FI

Oleg Koefoed, Actionphilosopher and facilitator, DK

David Rothenberg, Professor of Philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute

of Technology, musician/artist and author of several books, US

Heli Aaltonen, Drama, and Theatre pedagogue, storyteller, puppeteer and Associate Professor in Drama and Theatre at Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. NO

Sergey Simonov & Maria Matantseva, Biologists and Ornithologists at Institute of Biology, Karelian Research Centre, Russian Academy of Sciences, Petrozavodsk, RU

Andreas Andris Fågelviskeren Hansen, Self-taught bird expert and bird-imitator. SE

Frank Ekeberg, Musician and artist, Trondheim, NO

Photos from our initial Conference of the Birds gathering in Engeløya 8th-14th of June 2018





The Conference of the Birds is a transdisciplinary and socially engaged art project with exhibitions and events in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Russia focused on the decline of birds and human-avian co-existence, piloted in 2019 and executed 2020-2023. The project begins with Nests, site-specific platforms for artists, scientists and local partners to explore topics relating to birds and specific habitats. The work from the Nests and other curated work will form the touring exhibition, travelling to institutions in all participating countries. The aim is to bring together arts and sciences to explore and understand what is happening to avian life and how these changes affect culture and individual human lives, and also to develop new ways to think about and interact with birds.

In the pilot phase 2019, the curatorial team will select partners, plan collaborations, make the foundations for the migrating exhibition and parallel activities in the five neighbouring countries, arrange a kick-off event and make the budget and apply for further funding.



Nordsalten Avis 08.06.18

Avisa Nordland 18.06.2018

Nordsalten Avis 15.06.18

Avisa Nordland 12.juni 2018

Leave a Reply