Paul Chan My birds...trash...the future 2004

  • Not on view

Chan's My birds...trash...the future is a two-channel digital animation set in an apocalyptic landscape with a barren tree at its center. Inspired by Francisco de Goya's series of etchings The Disasters of War (1810 – 20) and Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot (1952), the landscape evokes a moral vacuum brought on by the horrors of war.

Projected on both sides of a suspended screen, the seven-scene allegory features the digital likenesses of filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and rapper Biggie Smalls, who act as stand-ins for Beckett’s existential bums. The cast also includes a few paparazzi (who are naked except for cameras and flashbulbs), suicide bombers geared up for Armageddon, and an assembly of twenty predatory birds based on descriptions from the Book of Leviticus in the Bible. The narrative unfolds against a soundtrack of ringing cellphones and car alarms that evokes the dissonant timbre of a cataclysm.

In some scenes black smoke rising in the east harks back to burning oil fields in the Middle East, and in others gruesome hangings rendered in acidic colors provoke uneasy associations with mistreated detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Chan's darkly expressive art reflects his political views, and his activism is intrinsic to his artistic outlook. Using digital animation techniques typical of early video games, he conveys an urgent message about the folly of violence and war.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 242.
Two-channel video (color, sound)
17 min.
Fund for the Twenty-First Century
Object number
© 2023 Paul Chan
Media and Performance

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