Simon Pope | Toronto Waterfront artist-in-residence 2023

An exercise in exceeding the frame | Barn swallows at Centre Island bridge

In mid-May 2023 I spent time videoing the Barn swallows as they swooped under the bridge at Centre Island – their nesting site. I wrote a short entry for the project's webpage, but was wary of equating migrating bird species with the other migrants who took part in the project. However, there's something in this video work that I considered valuable, relating to the situation of these people – me included – as we land temporarily, as we come and go, and – importantly – evade or ellude the "frame" of citizenship, political representation, and other critieria that would confer equal status to the people who are rooted here or who live lives less concerned with elsewhere. I rendered the video with increased contrast and inverting the image to white on black. It becomes a schematic representation of other bodies flitting in and out of a frame.

This is the original text from the project website entry made on 12th May 2023:
"The Barn swallows have returned to Toronto Island. Watching their coming-and-going from their nests built among the iron and steel structures of bridges at Algonquin and Centre islands, I started to wonder whether their migratory habits could provide another point of reference for this project. The swallows are temporary residents in Toronto, where their lives are split between several locations as they migrate from Central & South America, following the warm weather north."

"While it's important to avoid a simple correspondance between populations of people and birdlife, ignoring the specific conditions by which species move from one place to another, I'm interested in how swallows'rapid movement within the picture-frame of the video camera might infer something of the relationship between a migrant and their temporary home: a coming-and-going, with the frame inadequate to the task of either arresting movement or capturing it in its entirety. I wonder if the restlessness and unsettling of the image, and the short-comings of the camera, might go some way to suggesting a condition of other types of migration to this place?"

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