enter change Performance and Nature connect unsettle bridge
Bird Brain Critical Art Ensemble Welfare State International
Simon Whitehead
Shelley Sacks
green museum.org Fern Shaffer and Othello Anderson
David Haley
John Lyall
Ballet Atlantique-Regine Chopinot
Opening Essay Introducing the Artists Links and Readings
Hester Reeve Basia Irland





All photographs by Anja Hitzenberger

Bird Brain Dance is a multi-year navigational dance project by Jennifer Monson that investigates the migratory patterns and habits of birds and other animals and their biophysical and metaphorical relationships to humans as fellow travellers. 

The project includes five interrelated components:

  • site-specific public dance presentations

  • panel discussions with artists and scientists

  • dance workshops for the general public

  • a website that tracks the migrating birds and dancers

  • an educational resource guide (in development with the Walker Art Center) for school age children.

Bird Brain Dance is specifically designed for accessibility to passers-by in public spaces, as well as to the dance and environmental communities.  The project aims to have a significant impact on each site visited, bringing into relief the importance of sustaining and preserving habitat for migratory species and deepening our dynamic relationship with nature through the kinetic medium of dance.

The Ducks and Geese Migration, Spring 2004, was the third of four navigational dance migrations. The dancers navigated north from Texas, along the Mississippi flyway, through Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.

The website www.birdbraindance.org follows the journeys of the dancers on each migration through video, photo and journals as well as displays artwork and writing by students participating in the educational component of the project.

The first Bird Brain Dance tour in Spring 2001 followed the Gray Whale Migration up the West Coast from Baja California Sur, Mexico to Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. 

In Fall 2002, The Osprey Migration travelled down the Eastern Seaboard from Maine through Cuba to Venezuela.

The final migration will take place in Fall 2006 following the Northern Wheatears Migration from the Arctic, through Europe to West Africa.

Bird Brain Dance is a comprehensive project that employs many of Monson’s strategies as an artist.  Its fluid, travelling format aims to weave a web of connections between diverse communities of artists, scientists, environmentalists and students that will support and provoke a dialogue about the symbiotic, contradictory and confrontational relationships between art, technology, environment, power and place.

‘I am fascinated by migration and the links it makes between continents and ecosystems. The adaptability and flexibility of migrating and local birds allows them to function together in symbiotic, supportive coexistence. These small birds make contact with more parts of the earth than most of us could ever dream of. I am fascinated by how this migratory web parallels technological information webs in a material, delicate, infinitely complex and changing way, and this, in turn, frames how I approach the body as a communication source.’

According to entomologist Hugh Dingle,
‘…migration is specialized behavior especially evolved for the displacement of the individual in space.’ 

Dingle’s statement could just as easily be a definition of dancing.  Dancer/improvisers tune and hone their perceptual navigation skills in order to move through the moment of creation with acute sensitivity to their surroundings, cultivating their senses to be prepared for the unpredictable and unexpected. 

How do we navigate? Touch, smell, hearing, sight.
Birds use their peripheral vision as dancers do to sense unison and change in direction.
What remnants of navigation have been sustained in our human genes?  Is it part of our calculating mathematical linguistic sense, our intuitive sense of home, of finding comfort, of the need to move, or to be a nomad?  How does the body continue to orient itself and navigate distance and time in response to the rapidly increasing impositions and transmutations of technology on our human systems?
These are some of the questions that this project and it multi-layered components pose.

Dancing is a sifting through, a gleaning
a search for that glint that binds us to a moment of recognition.
Dancing is a visible language of hidden meanings
biting at the heels of what is knowable.


w : www.birdbraindance.org
e :
info at birdbraindance.org
jennifermonson at earthlink.net
a :
Jennifer Monson Dance
140 Second Ave. #501,
NY, NY 10003
Tel./Fax: 212 375-8283

Photo Credits

Photographs are by Anja Hitzenberger
Photographs provided by Jennifer Monson / Bird Brain

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