A Natural History of Nest Building uses the study of birds’ nests to explore ecology, sculpture and familial relationships
A Natural History of Nest Building 2017 is a three-screen video installation which draws on the traditions of natural history television programmes. The thirty-minute film is narrated by Andy Holden and his father, ornithologist Peter Holden. It is divided into three chapters, Nest Type, Nest Site and Material, concluding with a post-script on the bowerbird, the only known bird to make a structure for display only.
Throughout the film, Holden and his father adopt different positions on the significance of birds’ nests. His father considers them from a scientific perspective, reflecting on inherited traits and learned behaviours. Holden examines them as sculptural objects, suggesting comparisons between nest building and making art. The scripted exchange combines ironic humour with profound conversations on the nature of creativity and the parental bond.
The work began as a series of performative lectures given by Holden and his father at museums, festivals and universities across the UK. Posters designed for these events are shown alongside the video work in this one room display, alongside childhood photographs of Holden taken by his father and original or re-made specimens from his collection of nests.