A conversation with Kathy Hinde
This is Piano Migrations, an installation by Kathy Hinde, one of four artists creating For the Birds a spectacular night-time trail of light, sound and sculpture at the RSPB’s Ynys-hir reserve from 2-5 October.
Using LED and small speaker technology the artists are pioneering a high impact low energy spectacle. A thousand lights will wind their way through the landscape, leading into a unique spectacle of reflections and artistic interpretations on the life of birds.
I wanted to hear more about For the Birds. “It was Jony Easterby’s idea. He lives near Machynlleth and knows the reserve really well.”
Easterby brought a number of regular collaborators together – Esther Tew, Mark Anderson and Kathy, to co-create a celebration of birds. “We are all artists who work a lot outdoors, in the midst of nature” explains Kathy. “We are installing about 26 artworks along a two-kilometre walk. We’ve worked together for a few years and know instinctively how our works will complement each other. We’ll be putting the trail together over about ten days and our walk-throughs will enable us all to refine each other’s contribution.”
As for Kathy, her input revolves around the recurring themes of her work: the mapping of migratory routes, the relationship between man and technology and the effects of environmental change on nature. Piano Migrations is a characteristic fusion of natural processes, low-tech and high tech. “It changes all the time. Wherever I take it I ask them to find me a ‘new’ broken piano so the sounds are always different. And I love it when, as recently in Bavaria, they re-use the piano frame in an entirely different artwork afterwards.”
Using software developed by her partner Matthew Olden, Kathy experiments with different films of bird flight to create new versions. “The first version used film I shot of house martins on telegraph wires. It looked like music on a stave and that’s how the idea came to me. I like to create systems that have their own behaviour – I compose by setting up the system but the actual music comes from the behaviours I can’t control. The original house martin version of Piano Migrations is completely different to using film of cranes, which produce a much more graceful rhythmic pattern.”
I love the whole idea of migration, and there being no borders. There are lots of lovely metaphors
“I always spent a lot of time outdoors as a child, always in the woods. But really my interest in birds has grown around my artistic practice.”
And what is it with cranes? “We made origami cranes at school and I loved it, I’ve been doing it ever since, making them flap their wings and everything. Then in 2010 I spent sixteen hours in a hide in Hornborga, Sweden, with real cranes all around doing their dancing displays a few feet away from me. One of my installations at Ynys-hir will be stainless steel ‘origami’ cranes with motors to make them move and lit up with special lighting.”
“I love the whole idea of migration, and there being no borders. There are lots of lovely metaphors.” Kathy then reveals that her great-grandmother was a migrant - arriving in Britain from Lithuania in 1901. “And my grandmother sold pianos in Wigan, so these connections mean a lot to me.”
I want people thinking about the sights and sounds of nature in different ways
It is only late in the conversation that I realise the Ynys-hir installation is for visiting after dark. “Ynys-hir has these amazing vistas over the estuary but we want to bring it to life at night, and create a different feel.
“I want people thinking about the sights and sounds of nature in different ways...”
“You seem to want to magnify everyday experiences of nature” I suggest.
“Exactly, that’s a good way of putting it. My motivation is to imbue a desire to care for the environment, but it’s implicit in the work that I make, it’s not something that I preach. People have to get there themselves.”
2-5 October, Ynys-Hir, nr Machynlleth, SY20 8TB