Curator's Choice: Ceri Levy on the extinct White Gallinule in Ghosts of Gone Birds

Ceri Levy interviewed by Ben Miller | 28 October 2011
A photo of a man staring into the camera while holding a laptop with an illustration of a coastal scene on it
Curator's Choice: Ceri Levy is the co-founder and curator of Ghosts of Gone Birds, a moving exhibition on extinction in which artists include Ralph Steadman have depicted vanquished species…

"I travel a lot and one thing I always have with me is the art for Ghosts of Gone Birds.

"It means I can show people exactly what we are up to as we are trying to raise money and awareness for BirdLife International’s Preventing Extinctions programme, by engaging people with conservation through art, words and music.

"Each artist has chosen an extinct species of bird to represent and has breathed life back into it for Ghosts.

"My laptop is a travelling mini exhibition, and consequently I look at the art every day of my life and my favourites change continually.

"I love each and every piece we have received so far – it never ceases to amaze me just how much work and imagination the artists have put into their respective choice of bird.

"This week my favourite is The Tragic Demise of the White Gallinule by [illustration magazine] Le Gun. I love this piece as it tells a story – with many of the birds there is a narrative to relate.

"Often it is a tale of boats landing on faraway islands, unleashing men, cats and rats onto hitherto unsullied soil, and the effects often becoming devastating within a short space of time.

"Le Gun have captured a piratical seafaring, island landing moment of madness. What looks like dinner is being chased by various sailors who seem as though they may have drunk too much saltwater.

"Le Gun are the most fantastic illustrators of the imagination. Here, I really feel that they have transported me to their version of what happened to the White Gallinule and have created a space and an image within which to live with the last moments of this about-to-be-extinct bird.

"It is a powerful, humorous and macabre work to inspire a new audience to examine just what it is about extinction that we need to learn.

"It is their snapshot of a moment in time – the last moments of the White Gallinule's existence."

  • Ghosts of Gone Birds runs at the Rochelle School, London, from November 2-23 2011.
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