A cardinal hops around the grass and contentedly chirps for several minutes. So far, so provincial-pastoral. Then a French narrator starts talking about her decision to become an artist. Later, a dirty-brown dove sits on a fire escape, while someone else pontificates about Christianity and creativity. Soon, sparrows, swallows and a duck flit and waddle across the screen to discussions about gallery chauvinism and gender studies. Eventually, the desire to scream “What, exactly, is going on here?” will become overwhelming.
Having both an interest in photographing birds and a Rolodex filled with a who’s who of feminist sculptors, painters and performance artists, filmmaker Brigitte Cornand hit upon an question: Why not play interview transcripts of these extraordinary folks over ornithological home movies? To which we counter: Why?!? Though divorcing these art-world pioneers from any direct visual representation does, occasionally, allow you to concentrate more on what’s being said, there’s no sense of connection between the speakers and their avian avatar. Not until the end credits do you realize, Oh, that cardinal was Louise Bourgeois, the dove was Kiki Smith, and that awkward mallard was Pat Steir. Cornand obviously sees significance in pairing her feathered friends with her fine-art pals, but she may be the only one; everyone else will be left sifting through a remarkably pretentious round-robin guessing game.—David Fear