On the flight deck

We just had to share the fact that Céleste is in the house!

celeste and guitars

French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot in the gallery, preparing for FreePort [No. 007].
Photo by Trevor Smith

That’s Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, the French artist who is bringing us our next exhibition and the next in the FreePort Series. This sonic installation marries the unlikely combination of birds and guitars. We caught up with him checking the tuning of each of the 10 Gibson Les Paul and four Thunderbird bass guitars that will be on view in FreePort [No. 007]: Céleste Boursier-Mougenot when it opens to the public on January 18. We got to hear one of the first significant sounds in the gallery as he flipped on an amp and it emitted a slight hissy white noise, setting the perfect negative soundscape before tomorrow’s chirps and tweets begin.

Tomorrow morning, we will celebrate the introduction of 70 brightly plumed Zebra Finches to the 2,000 square foot aviary that our exhibition design team has been working on since before the holidays. It’s important to have the guitars already in place — with their nearby cymbals full of food — so that the birds can start getting used to them right away.

Celeste Boursier-Mougenot installation

Installation for The Curve, Barbican Art Gallery, 2010. Céleste Boursier-Mougenot.
Photo © Associated Press

We are counting the days until the public will have the chance to experience this immersive installation and the opportunity to think about the way we perceive, create and interact with music.

Just getting to know the work of Boursier-Mougenot? Take a look at this story from a few years ago in The Guardian, which claims that through his “sonic adventures” the Paris-based artist “can find musical potential in just about anything,” including getting vacuum cleaners to play harmonicas.

We look forward to the moment the birds acclimate to their environment and begin to perch, eat, nest and do what birds naturally do, all the while making organic, original music for us to enjoy.







  1. Ina (the philestine) Purvins says:

    To call this a celebration is grotesque – it seems exploitative and sad. From what I understand, the birds have few alternative perching options except the instruments, thus can’t escape making constant amplified sound. I think doing it once would have been enough. Going on tour with it is sick. Stick with the vacuum cleaners.

  2. Dinah Cardin
    Dinah Cardin says:

    Hi Ina,

    The birds are given every opportunity to rest in hanging nest “condos” and special UV lights gradually come up in the morning and down again in the evening, so the birds maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Mike Lash says:

    When does the exhibit open to the public? It looks wonderful.

  4. Dinah Cardin
    Dinah Cardin says:

    January 18! See you there, Mike!

  5. Emily Poole says:

    Hi there!
    I’m quite excited to be able to visit this exhibit in the near future!
    What is the policy on non-flash photography in the aviary? I have two zebra finches at home that I adopted and I’ve been professionally photographing animals for a few years, for my local SPCA, and privately.
    It would be spectacular if there was any way I could be granted permission to photograph the exhibit and would be happy to pass along the photos to PEM.
    To see such an array of plumage is going to be quite a treat!!!
    Thank you

  6. Dinah Cardin
    Dinah Cardin says:

    Hi Emily,

    The artist prefers the experience in the aviary to be immersive and not through the lens of a camera or Smart phone.

    We would be happy to provide you with press images. Please feel free to email me: dinah_cardin@pem.org.

    Thanks for your interest and for reading Connected!


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