Birdtable, Directional Forces 12, Artoll Residency, Germany

BirdTable is a work created as part of Directional Forces 12, a residency at Artoll in Germany where the historical pedagogical writings and social actions of Beuys and Steiner informed the structural relationship of the artists to each other, to place and to the making and sharing of new work.

Birdtable was developed in response to the women’s high security prison sitting opposite Artoll, the art residency space where Labern had a huge studio space with three ‘containment cells’ leading off it. The film, The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel Von DonnersMarck 2006, Germany) explores through love, loss, control and obsession, the Cold War surveillance of dissidents and artists, where Stasi ran telephone wires up the back of wall paper to ‘expose’ free thinkers. Labern uses this technique of  ruthless ‘deceit’ to literally ‘draw out’ Birdtable from within the layers of paper on a huge scale (4m x 1.5 m) Birdtable uses the identical german pigment and tone of colour as the birdtable sitting in the front garden of the women’s prison; the overblown size exposes the absurdity of the placement of the prison birdtable which goes un-noticed. No seed is replenished on the table, so no birds come to eat here; no women in-mates are allowed to enter the outer grounds but can see from the barred windows the un-visited birdtable and occasionally shout at people who walk past the security fencing.

The Indian fishing line had been connected for a long time to an idea that struck me during the film ‘The Lives of Others’ [2006, Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck] where the Stasi had bugged a writer’s house by sliding the thinnest wire up within the wall paper; I used this powerful ‘image-memory’ to create BirdTable.

I had photographed a yellow and turquoise bird table sitting in the grounds of the women’s security prison; I simplified lines for a 1.5 by 4 metre drawing then glued and sandwiched fishing line onto the drawing only and added a top ‘sheet’ of paper; when dry I ripped the drawing out puncturing and revealing the layer beneath of the Birdtable drawing. This exposure and the pulling through, both literally and psychologically brought into being the lone image on such a large scale, with the intention, like Alice through the Looking Glass that the abandonment and neglect of these women becomes it would seem, more difficult to ignore than the high security fence of the prison itself”