recordings of the silences of mounted specimens of the extinct New Zealand bird Sceloglaux albifacies (the Whekau, or Laughing Owl) are collected from public Natural History museums, via the paranormal investigation method of EVP (electronic voice phenomenon), which is associated with the use of radio and sound recording as a means to contact the dead. the silences are layered into a one minute transmission, collated on the centenary of the officially recognized extinction of the species.
a blank time-capsule, “a one minute radio silence for Sceloglaux albifacies” investigates cultural notions of death and memorialisation in relation to the stability of recording mechanisms, the ‘eternal stasis’ of the archive as storage, linking this to early colonial collecting practices: the predatory accumulating of rare birds which rationalised sacrificing the living animal in favour of the ‘immortality’ of the museum specimen. despite a few dozen of its corpses being collected in such a way, along with a scant number of known photographs, some drawings and written accounts, the living Whekau’s cry was not recorded. accordingly, this project aims neither to represent, nor to ‘speak for’ the bird in human terms, in favour of giving space to its absence, listening in to the one hundred year lack of any signal between 1914-2014.
[image: juvenile Sceloglaux albifacies photographed at its nest in a cavity under a limestone boulder by Cuthbert and Oliver Parr. c.1909, Raincliff Station, Opihi River, South Canterbury, New Zealand.]
sally ann mcintyre’s practice interweaves transmission, sound and writing. recent work has been published on the labels Consumer Waste, Flaming Pines, Gruenrekorder, Idealstate, Impulsive Habitat, and winds measure. she has performed at the Lines of Flight Festival, Dunedin, and the Now NOW festival, Sydney, among others. her ongoing projects exploring the silences of extinct birds and memorial radio broadcast silences have been exhibited at GV Art, London, SNO Gallery, Sydney, and The Audio Foundation, Auckland.