Kathy Bergquist – Metal and Mixed Media Artist
“It’s hard to keep track of the chronology of COVID-19 and the federal, provincial, NCC, and City of Ottawa measures that now circumscribe life in our area, and even as it feels as though my physical life has become smaller, my sense of the world ‘out there’ has widened. The reality of physical geography, among other lessons, has been driven home by the pandemic, and there is much I’ve been left to ponder. Some of the things I’ve been thinking about that relate both to our current situation and to my recent work are ideas of chaos and cohesion.
In Greek cosmogony, Kaos is the void from which all things come. There are some entertaining variations in the accounts of how, exactly, this happens, but the central idea is that chaos (Kaos) is the progenitor of all things. It was also interesting (to me) to note that “the race of birds” was the result of Kaos and Eros’s union.
I was in Eastend, Saskatchewan on a residency in November, 2019. I had brought with me a box of mild steel triangles, all the same size and shape, off-cuts from a fabrication process. I played with the shapes, and they kept becoming birds. Lots and lots of birds, which got me thinking about murmurations. On-line research brought me to this video, which I highly recommend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eakKfY5aHmY
Further research led me to a paper by George F. Young, et. al., a study of the management of uncertainty and consensus with respect to murmurations. The authors wrote that, “ . . . starlings pay attention to a fixed number of their neighbours in the flock, regardless of flock density . . . “ They concluded that, “When uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbours optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort. . . In following this role of seven, then, the birds are part of a dynamic system in which the parts combine to make a whole with emergent properties . . . “ Which brings me back to these times: as individuals, we can’t see where we’re going, how humanity will emerge from the apparent chaotic global uncertainty, but if we pay attention to each other, we may yet create something of extraordinary beauty that helps secure our collective survival. Be well, and stay safe!
Below is an image of the work on my murmuration project in progress.”