In 2018, Priscilla and Gavin created Trophy Specimen for the Botanica Festival of Contemporary Public Art at the Brisbane Botanical Gardens. Seven oversized birds – with plumage made from plastic and palm fronds – roosted on the boughs of two large Banyan Figs (Ficus benghalensis) alongside plant forms also made from recycled plastic and fabric.
The ambiguous plants and birds in Trophy Specimen are inspired by the Victorian-era practice of collecting and fetishising exotic species as taxidermy trophies. In its early years, the Brisbane Botanical Gardens was with a working research site dedicated to collecting and experimenting with new cash crops to grow throughout the British Empire. This research most famously produced the first cultivated macadamia nut tree in 1858. The Gardens also provided recreation for residents of the fledgling Victorian colony, with pleasure gardens and a zoo featuring exotic animals like peacocks and Harriet – a Galapagos tortoise originally captured by Charles Darwin on his famous voyage in 1835.
While the zoo is now gone, the Gardens continue to provide habitat for urban wildlife as the impact of centuries of exploration and exploitation has become manifest. The effect on some species has been devastating, while others like the Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) adapt and thrive. Trophy Specimen reflects on this linage of impact by fusing the aesthetic of taxidermy peacocks – trophies of exotic travel, wealth, and knowledge – with the now ubiquitous Ibis; notoriously described as the ‘bin chicken.’
The birds’ material palette of post-consumer technological materials – plastic, metal, and fabric – and natural plant materials, produce a speculative vision of evolving Machina inspired by nature’s tendency to adapt to human influence. Are these birds trophy specimens in a dystopic, future collection? Did humans create these creatures, or did they put themselves together from the waste we leave behind?
Location: Brisbane Botanic Gardens Alice Street, Brisbane City.
Dimensions: 7 birds – each approximately 1 m high.
Materials: Palm leaves, plastic milk bottles sourced from local cafes, recycled wire, fabric sourced & reprocessed from post-consumer waste, custom electronics & code.
Trophy Specimen is a Kuuki Production, realised by:
Concept – Priscilla Bracks & Gavin Sade
Visual design – Priscilla Bracks
Lighting design – Priscilla Bracks, Gavin Sade,
Programming – Gavin Sade
Installation – State Wide Signs Pty Ltd
Made with Arduino.