Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Sutapa Biswas

Bird Song

Sutapa Biswas. Bird Song, 2006.

A two-screen film installation with a horse in a domestic interior.

Birdsong is a large-scale double-screen film installation. As an artwork, it continues to engage with ideas around time and temporality, and the relationship between painting and film. It is based on a conversation with the artist’s son who, when at eighteen months of age, expressed his desire to have a horse living with them in their home. It is a film tableau in which a horse is viewed in a domestic interior, standing motionless except for the gentle and subtle movements of its body.

Seen through the eyes of a child, the work takes us between the real and the imaginary or dream world. Making subliminal references to historical British landscape genre paintings by artists such as John Constable and James Seymour, Bird Song specifically references George Stubb’s painting, Henry Fox and the Earl of Albermarle Shooting at Goodwood (c.1759), which depicts a hunting scene of the aristocracy at play attended by their servants. To the left of the image we see a black male servant holding his master’s horse, his expression that of calmness, and alluding to his admiration for his masters. Stubb’s painting suggests a resignation of status: an implied inevitability in terms of the master/slave equation. Bird Song as a work visually and poetically unsettles our perceptions of time and place.

“Time has always been a significant theme in Sutapa Biswas’s work. But in her new installation Birdsong (2004), time has become a more explicit theme and she uses the formal attributes of the moving image to evoke questions about the relationship between temporalities and the human imagination.” (Laura Mulvey, from the essay 'Birdsong', in Sutpa Biswas, published by the Institute of International Visual Arts, London, and The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Portland, Oregon, 2004.)

Birdsong was commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, London, and the Institute of International Visual Arts, London, and realised with the generous support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK, and Chelsea College of Art and Design.


time, landscape, video, 18th century, Britian

Having trouble seeing the video? Please download and install the latest version of Quicktime.

When Night ComesUntitled259 days (6,126 hours)Evilbird (Uraegin Thusangolensis)StormBig Fat Bird Taking All I

Magnesium BirdBird SongUnder my table

London, England
United Kingdom

c/o Chelsea College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London, 16 John Islip Street
London, England SW1P
United Kingdom

Text, images, audio, and/or video in the Feminist Art Base are copyrighted by the contributing artists unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.