This photograph shows the artist Andy Holden as a baby holding a bird magazine which he is apparently ‘reading’, albeit upside down. The image is reprinted from a staged photograph taken by the artist’s father, the renowned ornithologist Peter Holden who, through his role on television programmes such as Blue Peter and Bird in the Nest (with Bill Oddie), spent his career engaging young people with birds. One of two photographs on the theme, Andy Holden by Peter Holden (I) 2017 explores how knowledge is passed down, the relationship between art and ornithology, as well as the dynamics played out between father and son. The fact that the artist as baby is holding the magazine upside down alludes to the idea that he might be looking at birds in a different way to his father. This photograph is number one in the edition of five with one artist’s proof. Also in Tate’s collection is another related photograph Andy Holden by Peter Holden (I) 2017 (Tate P20983), as well as a group of screenprints and a video which document Holden’s performed collaborations with his father which took the form of a series of talks on the subjects of birds’ nests and bird song (Tate P20977–82 and T15535).
Holden developed his project over a number of years, using slides and props and a co-authored approach to presenting a performative talk about birds’ nests, culminating in the video A Natural History of Nestbuilding 2017 (Tate T15535). The video employs a pedagogical model to investigate how birds make nests. Standing on the left and right of a central screen which shows examples of different nest types, Holden and his father adopt different positions on the significance of the bird’s nest. Holden examines the nests as sculptural objects with poetic affect, while his father discusses them through the traditional lens of ornithology and theories of evolution. A sense of the performative and of a carefully rehearsed two-person play is present in the dialogue of the film, which is presented together with filmed sequences that draw on the tradition of natural history television programmes. The use of green-screen presentation enabled father and son to move with subtle irony through details which include a discussion about the creative process and the suggestion that comparisons can be made between nest building and making art.
Artangel website, Andy Holden / Peter Holden: Natural Selection, https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/natural-selection/, accessed 12 September 2018.
Darian Leader, ‘Laws of Motion’, Frieze, no.188, June–August 2017, pp.150–3.
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