Bik Van der Pol
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Speechless
Speechless is a multilayered exploration of how we speak about the precarious state of the natural world. The work consists of a custom-built aviary, which houses four parrots taught to mimic selected phrases from T.S. Elliot's seminal 1922 poem, The Waste Land, comparing landscape devastated by war to the ecological devastation of today. These sentences are performed and recorded as a sound piece that can be heard, at intervals, in the space. The aviary is furnished with a jumble of sculptural letters that appear in the terms global warming, climate change, and sustainability.

Part poetic gesture and radical expression, Speechless addresses the power of language within political contexts and our ability to understand and discuss environmental degradation. The work was inspired in part by recent debate in Florida's state government regarding the use of 'controversial' terms such as climate change and global warming.

Speechless draws on the uncanny ability of parrots to mimic human speech as a way of exploring the Aristotelian notion that we are political animals, constantly engaged in attempts to influence and govern one another. Historically, the human capacity for verbal language has been used as a
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Speechless
point of separation between animals and ourselves. This separation has in turn helped to accelerate our exploitation of the natural world.

By incorporating animals that literally speak back to us, Bik Van der Pol envision a situation in which language serves to unite, rather than to divide, humans from animals, with hopes that this reunification may help us address the urgent ecological crises that we face today.

Speechless is made in the context of PAMM's Researcher-in-Residence program, which provides a supportive context for research and an opportunity both to benefit from and stimulate South Florida's unique cultural resources, setting and community. Curator: René Morales. Breeder: Simbad's Birds and Pets. Voice performers: Rachel Carey, Susanna Browne, Vasiliki Sifostratoudaki, Mat Do, Natalia Sorzano and Manuel Segada. The parrots in this work, Cleo, David, Paco, Zach and Jany, are on loan to the museum. They were bred in captivity and regularly appear in a variety of public capacities, such as movies, commercials and public events. While at PAMM, their care is being managed by one of the nation’s leading avian veterinarians. Following the exhibition, they will be returned to their Miami home, where they will continue to live together.
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