Bird People is Cica Ghost’s latest region-wide installation, and it presents something of a conundrum. In a largely denuded landscape, the ground of which has been partially and neatly divided into a black-on-white grid, sit giant, ornate metalworks. Some stand alone, others support great cages – or form cage-like structures, equally huge, while block-like towers, apparently made of stacked cubes also rise from the ground here and there. It’s a strange environment – and one, frankly, difficult to see when using the default landscape and following the viewing instructions (ALM enabled and Shadows set to Sun/Moon + Projectors).
Throughout the landscape, stairways rise, curl and undulate, some supported by metal structures, some starting from the blocky forms. All of them twist and turn, and run by rise and fall to connect the ground – or at least their foundation blocks – offering people climbs up to dizzying heights and the giant cages waiting there. Some of these cages, but many are occupied by strange creatures with the bodies of bird and the heads of men. Most of these creatures sit within their cages individually or in pairs, facing open doors or sides to their enclosures almost apprehensively, as if fearing stepping out into the world beyond.
What are we to make of this? The clue, perhaps, lies in the quote Cica has offered with the piece: We are all living in cages with the door wide open. It’s a quote from Star Wars creator George Lucas about creativity and imagination. It references the idea that we can all be creative, we can all soar far and wide on the wings of imagination, if we are only willing to just let go; So does the installation perhaps stand as a metaphor for this idea?
Certainly, there is a strong contrast between the expressions worn by the creatures who have stepped out of their cages and are variously gathered or dotted across the open spaces beneath their former prisons, and those who have yet to venture forth. The former – for the most part – appear happy, chatty, curious and even playfully (although there are one or two looking slightly wary). Those still within their cages look through open doorways with a mix of confusion, apprehension and uncertainty – or even close their eyes on their potential route to freedom. This contrast plays strongly into the idea that stepping beyond the confines of our personal cages – our comfort zones – if you will, and embracing the imagination can be a liberating, positive influence on us.
For me, and in keeping with the broader theme offered by Lucas’ quote, the installation stands as the embodiment of a piece written be Debbie Hampton , the blogger and writer behind The Best Brain Possible. In 2015 She used the quote as the title for an essay about overcoming personal fear and the apparent “comforts” we can have in allowing ourselves to become caged by a “normal” life; we become, in effect, our own jailers.
I’ve lived most of my life like a bird in a cage with the door wide open. At any time, I could have hopped on over to the opening, taken flight and soared to new heights. All along, I’ve known how to fly. No one clipped my wings.
So, what kept me in the cage? My own fear and self-imposed limitations held me there. I was my own prison guard. I think we are all born knowing how to fly, but life happens and beats us down little-by-little until we forget that we ever had this valuable skill.
– Debbie Hampton, In A Cage With the Door Wide Open
I must also, and in passing, admit that Cica’s human-headed birds put me in mind of something else – something entirely unintended by Cica (I know this because I asked her!), so I’m not going to draw any parallels between the two. I’ll simply state that in looking at these creatures, I couldn’t help but be put in mind of the Brontitallians from Douglas Adams’ Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – and while it may have been unintentional, it was also quite delightful.
A conundrum it may first be upon first arriving within it, Bird People is worth exploring and thinking about – although I do perhaps suggest you try a Midnight windlight setting rather than the default; it doesn’t detract that much from the experience (just ensure you do have LM enabled and Shadows set to Sun/Moon + Projectors), and it can certainly make navigation a lot easier when climbing the various stairways and reduces the risk of falling off them somewhat.
- Bird People (Imagine Hall, rated Moderate)