Live video feed, 3 digital projections, sound installation, found objects, text, CCTV equipment with digital up and download, nesting boxes
The installation NEOBIOTA consists of real-time video and audio transmissions of parrots, which have been inhabitants of Cologne for around 40 years. Using the latest surveillance technology, rose-ringed and alexandrine parakeets are monitored in their breeding grounds and sleeping trees. In this way, artistic practice draws our attention to ecological phenomena: as global trade and travel increase, not only humans and goods are transported around the world, but animals also increasingly find their way into new environments – a heavily debated phenomenon that biologists refer to as “neobiota” (from the ancient Greek néos, new, and bíos, life). To be sure, the introduction of biologically new inhabitants to an ecosystem can be problematic. Some species come into conflict with their new environment shortly after their arrival. They change or impair it as a so-called “invasive species.”
With time, however, some of the exotic new comers become a familiar sight and find their place in the local ecosystem. In this way, globalisation, which is primarily motivated by economic gain, alters the habitat of humans, animals and plants. An adjoining phenomenon is the surveillance of people in public spaces. In the installation, the round-the-clock surveillance of the parakeets reflects on this problematic phenomenon.
Alexandrine Parakeets (Psittacula eupatria), Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri)
Alexandrine parakeets (Psittacula eupatria) are originally native to the tropical regions of South Asia. Rose-ringed parakeets (Psittacula krameri) are native to the same regions, but are more widespread and can be found as far as tropical West Africa. In 1969, the Cologne Zoo first verified that rose-ringed parakeets were breeding in the wild. The first alexandrine parakeets were observed in Cologne in 1993, when eight pairs were found nesting in Schlosspark Stammheim. The first parakeets living in the wild probably escaped from the zoo or from private owners. By now the populations in the Cologne area have grown to around 150 to 200 alexandrine parakeets and up to 2000 rose-ringed parakeets and are stable at these numbers. Both species nest in parks and gardens as well as in urban housing developments. Until now, the breeding and nesting behaviour, especially of the alexandrine parakeets, has rarely been documented. At the same time, the parrots have been recognized under definition § 7 of Germany’s Federal Environmental Protection Laws as an indigenous species since they have survived in this urban habitat now for many generations. They are classified, like all indigenous species of birds, as an “especially protected species.”
Display cases on the terminal level.
The display cases are an archive, information centre and visualisation of the project’s context. They document the conflicting priorities that the project describes between humans and animals as well as between nature and technology. A collection of objects revolving around the Cologne parakeets and the technology used to observe them are placed in relation to each other within the showcases.
Projection on the central platform / Schlosspark Stammheim.
The projected images originate from the breeding colony of the alexandrine parakeets in Schlosspark Stammheim, Cologne. The hollowed-out trunks the birds use for nesting can be found in the crowns of a group of seven plane trees which stand in close proximity to each other. Mating followed by breeding season is from February to April. The young birds hatch in April and May and learn to fly by June or July. The parakeets use the hollowed-out tree trunks beyond the regular breeding periods to rest and to sleep. Three cameras were installed in the pre-existing nesting trunks, a final camera oversees the entire scene of nesting trees and cables. Three projection screens in the underground station show the various scenes via an internet-based live-stream.
The related sound is played over a speaker suspended on the central platform.
Sound installation in the rotunda.
The sound recordings document the behavioural patterns of the rose-ringed parakeets, which are unique among species found in Germany. Practically the entire local population of rose-ringed parakeets gathers every evening at their communal sleeping grounds in order to communally spend the night. In the early morning the parakeets disperse again throughout the area. The birds gather at the sleeping grounds in large groups around 30 minutes before sunset and leave again around 30 minutes after sunrise. Through this relation to the course of the sun, their sleeping patterns change with the seasons. The birds can be heard at times when they are on the sleeping tree and are still awake or have recently woken up.
Installation View:Underground station Breslauer Platz, Cologne, 2011
Photos by Alwin Lay
Photos by Tue Greenfort
Photos by Annette Greenfort
Photos by Benjamin Tillig
Courtesy: Johann König, Berlin and Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe AG, Cologne