Rajinder Singh | Point at a passing migrant bird with a raised locked arm and an open palm | 2020 | Scavenged wood, wooden clamps jesomite, vinyl tape | 120 x 120cm
For Culture night 2021 the Arts Council will continue its proud tradition of showcasing a selection of works recently added to its extensive Visual Art Collection. The Arts Council Collection established in 1962 and comprising over 1,250 works of modern
and contemporary Irish art.
The works on show from the Collection showcase the Arts Councils ongoing commitment to purchasing excellent and ambitious works of art which reflect the excellent standard of contemporary Irish visual arts practice and which both engage with and represent
As this year it will not be possible to welcome audiences to share these works in person at the Arts Council’s buildings, in Dublin as we usually would, we have invited a few artists whose artwork has recently been acquired for the Collection give some
insight into their works and practice.
For Culture Night 2021 we will celebrate the Arts Council Collection’s continuing history of purchasing ambitious work that engages with and reflects contemporary Irish society by highlighting works by artists Orla Barry, Cecilia Danell, Mandy O’Neill,
Rajinder Singh, which have been added to the Collection in the past year.
Here, Rajinder Singh tells us more about the featured artwork, his practice and what it means to have his work included as part of the Arts Council Collection.
Explore this and more from the Arts Council Collection at instagram.com/artscouncilireland/
Point at a passing migrant bird with a raised locked arm and an open palm is the title and score for a 2020 sculpture that first showed at Linenhall Arts Centre in County Mayo. There are nine separate pieces in this sculpture, each based on the
bird trap. Each ‘trap’ features a little ‘stone’ bird I call teenage martins. They are de-winged, persecuted poor things with no feet. My little stone birds represent the desperate migrant in search of landfall having travelled far and through unimaginable
hardship in search of safety. The disturbing image of a wingless, feetless migrant bird brings Audre Lorde to mind. “Wherever the bird with no feet flew, she found trees with no limbs”.1 My wingless, feetless teenage martins found only
bird traps in the shape of migrant detention centres all around Ireland, forever stuck between a violent past and an uncertain future.
The sculpture was the first object I made for my ‘un-migrant-ing’ exhibition in 2020. It is based on a text I found on a 19th century unverified sighting of the Purple Martin in Dublin from the Museum of Science and Art (National Museum of Ireland). The
sighting got me thinking about the arduous and often catastrophic flights of migration that take place around the globe everyday.
I wanted to build a fake narrative around the purple martin. For my show at Linenhall Arts Centre, I faked sightings, images and videos. I used techniques often used against migrants. I released the following ‘unverified’ report before the show: ‘In May
of 2019, according to the Irish Birding records, there was a rare sighting of a migrant bird from North America called the Purple Martin in the stone circle at Termon Hill, near the south end of the Mullet Peninsula in County Mayo. The Purple Martin,
which matures to a dirty black plumage, is the largest of the aggressive North American swallows. It has taken over large parts of North America. After a season of unfettered breeding it migrates to parts of South America where it aggressively competes
for food in the Amazon basin. It is rarely seen in Ireland. The only other sighting claim was in 1840 in Kingstown, Dublin, now at the Museum of Science and Art, Dublin.’
The nine bird traps in Point at a passing migrant bird with a raised locked arm and an open palm were made from wood scavenged from an old worktable. I started building bird traps in 2019 using scrap wood around my studio. To make the traps I had
to learn how to bend wood. I found the processes and aesthetics of wood bending fascinating. The forces and tensions in wood bending as well as the heavy use of clamps and even the ubiquitous use of orange became a big part of my final bird trap sculptures.
Point at a passing migrant bird with a raised locked arm and an open palm is an abstract depiction of tension and violence within small claustrophobic prison-like spaces.
Finally, as a choreographer and a movement artist, I was interested in getting my audience to experience the sculpture through their bodies. The score in the title of this piece has an element of choreography in its proclamation. I wanted it to challenge
in an effort to elicit movement from its audience.
Lorde 1983, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Persephone Press, New York, p. 31.
— Rajinder Singh
Since 1962, the Arts Council has been buying art from working artists. The Collection that evolved tells the story of modern and contemporary Irish visual art in a unique and fascinating way. Today the Collection continues to grow and its more than 1,250
paintings, sculptures and other works are on display in public spaces all over Ireland for people to experience and enjoy first hand. You can find out more at: www.artscouncil.emuseum.com