New Houston Public Art: Nina Katchadourian’s Human Take on the Bird Call

by Glasstire June 18, 2019

Image: Nash Baker

In the woods outside the Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University in Houston there is a cacophony — a clamoring of melodies from local birds, and something that may sound like the chirping of avian fauna, but is quite different. These strange pipings are the sound recordings of human voices, blaring out of small speakers mounted on trees. The artificial birdsongs echo throughout, mimicking and complimenting the birdcalls of various types and species. 

This auditory experience is the brainchild of interdisciplinary New York-based artist Nina Katchadourian. Titled Please, Please, Pleased to Meet’cha, the piece was first commissioned by Wave Hill park in the Bronx in 2006. The work consists of human voices interpreting the song of specific birds through sound and speech. But Katchourian did not seek out vocalists or bird experts. As she states on her website, “I wanted to work with people who knew nothing about birds,” and instead sought out professionals in the field of language and translation. 

Katchadourian worked with translators from the United Nations, who, through their own expertise came up with aural translations of the different bird calls. The result is a humorous representation of quirky noises and turns of phrase.

Please, Please, Pleased to Meet’cha, currently installed in the Live Oak grove between Herring Hall and Brochstein Pavilion, is part of the Rice Public Art initiative that commissions and presents public artworks and exhibitions on university grounds. The installation is also presented in connection with the Moody’s spring focus on the environment and ecology. Please, Please, Pleased to Meet’cha will run daily from 10 am to 5 pm through September 30, 2019.

For more reading on Katchadourian and the excellent 2017 retrospective of her work at the Blanton Museum in Austin, please go here and here.

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