19 Apr 2015

Birds for the Curiosity Cabinet

To whoever cultivates their sense of curiosity and sensitivity, beauty is to be found in the quirkiest of places and situations. Artistry captures beauty in the moment, and cinches it, nips, tucks, seals and stitches it. A curious English guy by the name of Mister Finch, who has mastered textile to a 'T', delivers his stuffed canaries in their cardboard coffins, and Poe-esque creatures complete with a morgue tag. And there we have death looking us in the eye and looking seemingly beautiful.

Yellow Bird by Mister Finch

The display of death on a plate somewhat reconciles us with beauty as birds that come to be and pass away, ground to a halt, and immortalised in their frailty and brevity. It strikes the chord that links us to the inner samaritan who strives to save the endangered bird life and other collateral victims of the human environment. It connects us with the child in us and our progeny who put on elaborate funeral ceremonies to animal creatures, big and small.

I have a few stories of my own on the latter, and to this day, still give - whenever possible - the dignity of a send-off to the furry and feathery casualties of life. Our response to the questions and mysteries of death finds no other answer than the subterfuge of ceremony and adornment. Maybe funerals and their embellishing attentions are part of the human coping mechanisms when faced with loss, mortality and ultimately with their own mortality. Or maybe not. Because some members of the animal kingdom - from elephants, to monkeys and milk cows, via dogs and whales - put on a ceremony of sorts. Animals feel the loss and they mourn a dead one as a result, admittedly within the constraints of their capacity for understanding, and therefore will not be devoured by our human metaphysical wonders of 'To be or not to be'.

Penelope by Mister Finch
Specimen Bird by Mister Finch
Extract from the book Mister Finch: Living in a Fairy Tale World

The ceremony is part of the mourning process. It smooths out some of the roughness and helps us in our solace for the departed and their departure from our lives. Yet generally speaking, our coming to terms with death is shy of a taboo. We choose to look away until it finds us and stares us in the face. Thankfully Mr Finch's dead birds do not make us look the other way. Or do they?

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