Falling Birds

X-ray photographs and poetic texts highlight extinction and the alarming decline in bird species around the world.

Falling Birds is a display by UK-based artist Helena Hunter, which illuminates the ongoing environmental crisis in relation to bird species.

Her works blend larger-than-life X-ray images of extinct and endangered bird specimens from the Horniman’s Natural History collection, with fragments of poetic text.

Displayed alongside the images are taxidermy mounts of the birds that inspired them: Passenger Pigeon, Snowy Owl, Kakapo and Huia.

Watch the film Helena created with Mark Peter Wright to accompany the display. You can see more of their work together in Matterlurgy.

One in eight of the world’s bird species is currently threatened with extinction.

Helena’s work asks us what songs extinct and endangered birds might sing?

How might we hear their stories? What might their representation in the Museum hide and reveal?

Helena spent her residency behind the scenes encountering many extinct and endangered birds, contemplating their past lives, the reasons behind their decline or eventual extinction, and the links to environmental change and species depletion today.

As one in eight of the world’s bird species is now globally threatened with extinction, Helena’s work connects the past to the present and asks us to consider the lessons we might learn from the past, and how we might prevent and reduce further loss and extinction now and in the future.
Jo Hatton, Keeper of Natural History

The artworks in Falling Birds were developed by Helena during her Artquest Research Residency at the Horniman in 2018/19.  The display forms part of a wider programme at the Horniman to improve awareness of environmental issues.

Supported by