Jamie Hewlett, Peter Blake, Ralph Steadman and Margaret Atwood in Ghosts of Gone Birds

By Culture24 Reporter | 02 November 2011
A photo of an artist in a suit hiding behind hos own painting of an extinct bird
Ralph Steadman dares to look at his dodo for Ghosts of Gone Birds
Exhibition: Ghosts of Gone Birds, Rochelle School, London, until November 23 2011

If talk of extinct species often threatens to descend into over-worthy dullness, Ceri Levy's multimedia response to the loss of long-departed birdlife is the antithesis of self-righteousness.

A Hawaiian Crow submitted by Gorillaz etcher Jamie Hewlett, a Pallas's Cormorant from the typically wry hand of Ralph Steadman and a Dead Dodo courtesy of Peter Blake are among the choice contributions a call-out extended to more than 80 contemporary names drew.

"To find so many creative people engaged with the subjects of birds and the threat of extinction that faces so many of them today is truly inspiring," says Margaret Atwood, another of the well-known contributors to the display, imploring visitors to "see, love, add and learn how to help."

"This magnificent show will reconnect us to the natural world, teach us about our past and fuel our interest in what we are losing delay."

Levy is a filmmaker with another Gorillaz connection – his best-known work is a documentary about Damon Albarn's cartoon band.

Collaborating with Birdlife International's Preventing Extinction programme, which aims to get the rate of decline down from the current average of almost one bird a year to the natural count of one a century, he hopes to highlight the plight of imperilled dwellers such as the albatross, which is dying at a rate of one every five minutes – faster than it can breed.

"We're aiming to raise a creative army for conservation," he declares. "It's fair to say that we have been floored by the response of the artists we’ve asked to create new work for us."

He feels the involvement of Blake, Steadman and Atwood is "a clear illustration of the enthusiasm and support" for the campaign.

"The project is reaching out to new audiences in conversations about conversation through their collective interest in contemporary art, music and poetry.

"We want to get people thinking about the diverse range of birds that have already been lost to extinction and introduce them to the work of BirdLife International."

A live strand of the show features a live performance from Jimi Goodwin, of acclaimed indie band Doves, and artists will work on pieces in the galleries, producing limited edition prints.

"Ghosts of Gone Birds is a provocative new way to reach out and inspire a wide audience about today's extinction crisis and mobilise action," says Dr Marco Lambertini, the head of BirdLife.

"In modern times, species are going extinct at least a thousand times the natural rate. Many more are so threatened that they are on the verge of disappearing.

"Urgent action is needed, but there is still hope. We have shown that, with the right resources and targeted action, species can be saved."

More pictures from the show:

A photo of an artist in her studio standing behind a sculpture of a bird's head
Harriet Mead with King Island Emu
A photo of an artist holding up a painting of a red bird and a blue bird facing each other
Holly Johnson with Liver Birds
A photo of an artist in a suit holding up an artwork with a picture of a dodo painted on it
Peter Blake with Dead as a Dodo
A photo of an artist holding up a colourful piece of work featuring a blue bird
Desmond Morris and The Inconvenient Gift
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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