As part of Frieze Sculpture 2019 Joanna Rajkowska shows The Hatchling, a sound piece that blends with the tissue of the landscape in the Regents Park in London.
The physical element is a scaled-up bird’s egg. Made from pigmented acrylic plaster, it stands about 180 cm high, on its short axis, and is 240 cm long. The bluish colour of the shell is given by powdered stone mixed with the plaster. The delicately textured surface was then hand-painted by the artist. The hollow casting emits the sounds of a hatching chick recorded with a contact microphone. All the sounds can be heard: the heartbeat, chirps and the pecking of the shell by the chick. A sound exciter transducer turns the whole egg into a speaker, causing it to vibrate with the recording.
The egg installed in The Regent’s Park is the egg of the common blackbird (Turdus merula). This is one of Britain’s most common birds and one whose song is arguably the most beautiful and best-loved of any bird. The eggs are distinctive – blue-green with brown speckles. It is a Europhile – British blackbirds are joined in winter by large numbers of migrants from Europe, mainly Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Russia and Germany.
Visually, the work presents a somewhat surreal picture in which reality is defamiliarized by an unexpected element garnering a moment of surprise, attention and effort to tame the view again. The Hatchling in The Regent’s Park is an unusual guest, a gift from the birds that live with us in cities, something we tend to forget. The Hatchling has a particular purpose: it nods to the fragility of life – to hear the full spectrum of sounds, one has to embrace the egg and listen with attention. It proposes experiencing the place and its aura with the body, the body that listens to the beginning of life. The Hatchling is an interruption in the trajectories of everyday life, a moment of (literally) bending to something invisible, a place of discreet listening – rare in cities. What demands our attention is young, defenceless, non-human life. The Hatchling is a reminder of what is most important at this point in the history of the human species – the condition of the natural environment, thanks to which our own existence is still possible.