Eclipse is an act of commemoration for a lost species: the passenger pigeon, whose once massive population went extinct 100 years ago. As of the mid-19th Century, this dove-like bird was the most abundant bird species in North America and flew in flocks of millions that would literally darken the skies for hours when passing over. Audubon likened their appearance to a noonday eclipse. The last known passenger pigeon, Martha, died in captivity on September 1, 1914.
Inspired by historic accounts of the flock movements, this video installation and soundscape evokes the once overwhelming, even frightening, numbers of the birds as well as their delicate beauty, the sadness of their loss and irreversible disappearance. An accompanying artist publication by Sayler/Morris extends the content of the installation.
The original installation was designed specifically for MASS MoCA and was projected onto a wall and 50-foot high ceiling. The birds traveled over the heads of viewers, traveling a full distance of about 100 feet. The piece has since been re-configured for other spaces and displays, including a single monitor at the David Brower Center and a towering array of eight monitors extending into the atrium of the Berman Museum. The piece was originally conceived during a series of conversations with author Elizabeth Kolbert about extinction—how to memorialize it, and what such memorials can accomplish.