Birding for ‘Cheaters’ at the Aspen Art Museum
IF YOU GO …
What: Nina Katchadourian, ‘Twitchers and Cheaters’
Where: Aspen Art Museum
When: Through June 16
How much: Free
More info: aspenartmuseum.org
Local birders have countless favorite patches and secret perches from which to observe birds, but until now the Aspen Art Museum probably hasn’t been one of them.
These days, you can see everything from a brown-capped rosy Finch to a belted kingfisher to a bald eagle during a short visit there.
Last week the museum installed artist Nina Katchadourian’s “Twitchers and Cheaters,” a playful and silent five-screen video installation that depicts every species of bird that can possibly be spotted in the Aspen area.
“This is a seven-minute cheat sheet where, if you stood there and watched, you could see all the birds you could ever see in Pitkin County,” curator Courtenay Finn said during a walk-through last week.
The show, installed above the museum’s three-story grand staircase, is the artist’s spin on the obsessive birder tradition of keeping lists of observed birds — any serious birder keeps a “life list” and a “year list,” while many keep a “state list,” “year list” and “county list” and compile bird lists during missions like a “Big Year,” “Big Day” or “Big Sit.”
Local bird obsessives have made their way into popular culture previously. Mark Obmascik’s popular book “The Big Year” chronicled the birding journey of Snowmass Village’s Al Levantin and his birding competitors (it was adapted into a 2011 film with Steve Martin playing Levantin).
Katachadourian’s installation is like the ultimate local “life list” and “county list” of birds crammed into a few fast and furious birding minutes. The artist compiled her avian film footage with the help of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which provided the artist with a list of all birds known to be seen in the county.
“It’ll be interesting for everyone, but may be super-exciting for birders,” museum director Heidi Zuckerman said this fall.
The show had originally been slated for the museum last summer. But when Katchadourian came to the museum on a site visit, she was inspired by the museum’s grand staircase, where live birds are known to occasionally gather and perch. She adapted the video installation — first exhibited in trees at the Fields Sculpture Park in upstate New York in 2008 — for the space, placing her video birds on vertical pipes above the stairway.
It marks the first time the museum has shown work in the three-story staircase area.
“We’ve never installed a show there before, so it’s nice to be able to activate that space,” said Zuckerman.
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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.