Photofusion Member | Gemma Marmalade
In 1957, when conducting extra sensory perception trials with animals, a team of leading parapsychologists discovered that pigeons were able to determine the sexuality of humans through visual observation.
Pigeons correctly recognised a test participants’ sexual persuasion through a combination of identifying particular physiognomic cues and psychic ability.
Given the potential ramifications of this discovery at a time where non-heterosexuality was either illegal or condemned, the research wasn’t published or reported.
Strange Birds is an experimental polyvisual video artwork that responds to this groundbreaking discovery from an enlightened contemporary perspective.
The work consists of a central, almost entirely still film bracketed by interchanging photographic slide projections and an accompanying audio soundtrack. The film is a reconstruction of a typical laboratory observational experiment between a study pigeon and a test participant. The synchronised ‘blinking’ slide projectors utilise the studies’ archival material, which articulate the gesture of an exchange in telepathic mental images transferred between projectors. This representational ‘minds eye’ of both pigeon and human create visual puns and palindromes. The soundtrack offers samples of archival recordings from interviews with scientists to test participant testimonials.
The title, Strange Birds is taken from Polari (a form of Cant slang often used in queer subculture, particularly active during times when homosexuality was criminalised) where the phrase ‘a strange bird’ suggested someone of peculiarity and/or indeterminable sexual preference.
Strange Birds publicly debuts this highly progressive social and scientific development for the first time, 55 years since its original hypothesis. It references the subtleties and shortcomings of perception in our analyses of others and how we assimilate visual information. It also illustrates through this human and avian encounter the innate characteristics of sexuality and ultimately, our human vulnerability in light of natural and evolutionary phenomena.
Gemma Marmalade graduated from an MA in Photography at the London College of Communication with Distinction in 2011. Having won the Photofusion Award and Special Recognition in the Sproxton Award for her work, she has since exhibited widely in the UK, also securing selection (as a participant and prize nominee) for the prestigious Spring Exhibition at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen and her first solo exhibition for the Apulia Film Commission in Bari, Italy. Most recently, she has been selected to show in the emerging talent exhibition, Fresh Faced + Wild Eyed 2012 at the Photographers’ Gallery, London.
Gemma specialises in complex, multi-layered art works drawing on history, nature; humour and pathos.