Once, flocks of over 1 billion passenger pigeons darkened the skies for days. By 1900, a 14-year-old boy shot the last one. How did this happen?
The Lost Bird Project is a documentary about the stories of five birds driven to extinction in modern times and sculptor Todd McGrain’s project to memorialize them. The film follows McGrain as he searches for the locations where the birds were last seen in the wild and negotiates for permission to install his large bronze sculptures there.
McGrain’s aim in placing the sculptures is to give presence to the birds where they are now so starkly absent. “These birds are not commonly known,” he says, “and they ought to be, because forgetting is another kind of extinction. It’s such a thorough erasing.”
McGrain’s passion for form is apparent when he speaks of the physicality of a life of sculpting. “Touch is literally the way we come in contact with the world.” The memorials are not naturalistic works of biological detail, McGrain’s intention is to create shapes that capture the presence of the birds, to make them personal and palpable, to remind us of their absence.
Travelling all the way from the tropical swamps of Florida to the rocky coasts of Newfoundland, McGrain scouts locations, talks to park rangers and speaks at town meetings in an effort to gather support for his project. His memorials now stand in the places where the birds once socialized, courted and fed their young — a testament to what we have lost and a reminder to preserve what we have left.
The film is an elegy to the five birds and a thoughtful and sometimes humorous look at the artist and his mission. The Lost Bird Project is a film about public art, extinction and memory.
Producer: Muffie Meyer
Director: Deborah Dickson
Executive Producer: Andrew Stern
Director of Photography: Scott Anger
Sound: Roger Phenix
Narrator: Christopher Cokinos
Composer: Christopher Tin