Andy Holden

Lecture on Nesting (Bristol Museum)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Andy Holden born 1982
Screenprint on paper
Image: 601 × 374 mm
Presented by the artist 2018. The Artangel Collection at Tate.


This screenprint is a photo-shopped adaptation of a book plate illustrating a group of birds and their nests in a tropical setting. It was adapted from the volume Homes Without Hands (c.1900). The screenprint marked the largest version of Holden’s performances with his father, developed over a number of years, using slides and props and a co-authored approach to presenting a performative talk about birds’ nests. This version of the performance took place in the grand setting of the main hall of Bristol Museum in front of an audience of 150 people. The talk featured specimens from Bristol Museum archives, which were ‘discovered’ in a cupboard after fifty years. A live camera was set up to show projections of the specimens on a large screen; the use of moving-image clips would become the basis of Holden’s video A Natural History of Nest Building 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.

Screenprinted posters for one-off performances have been part of Andy Holden’s practice since he graduated from Goldsmiths College, London in 2004. For every stand-alone performance, a poster was made in an edition of approximately twenty, with the artist’s proofs being used to promote each event in the venue in which it would take place. Six of these posters are in Tate’s collection (Tate P20977–82). The posters were exhibited as a set at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge in 2011 and as part of Holden’s Artangel exhibition Natural Selection at the former Newington Library in south-east London in 2017. The images for the screenprints were collected between 2010 and 2012 from various images from Peter Holden’s extensive collection of ornithology books. Tate’s copy of this particular poster is number nine in the edition of thirty.

Further reading
Artangel website, Andy Holden / Peter Holden: Natural Selection,, accessed 12 September 2018.
Darian Leader, ‘Laws of Motion’, Frieze, no.188, June–August 2017, pp.150–3.

Clarrie Wallis
September 2018

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like

In the shop