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Avi-Alarm - Endangered birds sound the alarm on Instagram

Published on: 20 November 2023

New Instagram filters will turn five of the UK’s most threatened bird species into Instagram influencers.

Thomas Bewick

The endangered capercaillie, curlew, puffin, lapwing and mistle thrush, have been turned into filters by artist Hanna Tuulikki to help sound the alarm about their plight. The filters are launching on the week of the 20th November, one per day.

The filters, made in collaboration with digital artists Saturn Akin and MV Brown, will transform social media users into a human/bird hybrid. They are embedded with alarm calls which translate each bird’s alarm signal into protest chants, fusing field recordings with the human voice to sound a red alert for bird life through a cacophony of human and avian harmony.

In addition to appearing on social media, the story of Hanna’s project will be embedded on her website over time.

Hanna was inspired by natural history author, wood engraver, teacher and illustrator Thomas Bewick (1753-1828).

“Bewick is celebrated for his engravings, in particular of birds, as well as his technical innovation in print making, and his day, he was also known for his radical politics,” explains Hanna. “Many species which appear in his ‘A History of British Birds’ books are now threatened by climate chaos and ecological degradation, with a shocking 70 species included on the UK red list.

“As I learned about his work and life, I began to wonder how he would respond to the devastating biodiversity loss we are experiencing today? If Bewick were alive now, would he be a contemporary eco-activist? Would he embrace digital technologies and take to social media as a tool for communication and protest?”

The curlew filter, the first to go live on Instagram as part of Avi-Alarm


Hanna’s work Avi-Alarm, is one of four commissions generated as part of the  Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project On-Site/Off-Site which is led by Newcastle University in partnership with the Bewick Society, National Trust and Arts&Heritage.

On-Site/Off-Site explores the potential of digital technologies to support contemporary art commissioning for heritage sites. Each of the works produced will respond to the work of Thomas Bewick who himself embraced the latest technologies of the eighteenth century to manifest his love of the countryside and nature through exquisitely detailed prints, drawings, and engravings to reach wide audiences.

Project lead Professor Vee Pollock, Dean of Culture and Creative Arts at Newcastle University, said: "Hanna's response to Bewick's interest in the natural world, to his engravings, and to the calls of the birds themselves, come together to create this innovative and deeply thoughtful call to action. We look forward to seeing how people engage with Hanna's work, the concerns raised, and hopefully also with Thomas Bewick's important contribution to both artistic practice and our appreciation of our environment. At the core of our project, is considering how digital platforms might support the work of heritage sites and Hanna's work highlights the contemporary relevance of heritage in the context of global issues."

Kay Owen, Operations and Experience manager at Cherryburn, Bewick’s birthplace cottage, which is managed by the National Trust, said: “Thomas Bewick embraced the latest technologies of the eighteenth century in his engraving and printing in order to share his love of the nature and wildlife. It is wonderful to see this digital-first project speak to that legacy in such innovate ways and to re-imagine Bewick's work for a contemporary audience."

Peter Quinn, Chair of the Bewick Society said: “From his small workshop in smoky Newcastle Thomas Bewick gained a global audience. He did so through technical innovation and artistic vision. Throughout his life he retained a sense of wonder at the natural world and concern for the politics of the social order.

“In the twenty first century his imagery and voice remain inspirational. The Bewick Society is delighted to work with the On-Site/Off-Site project to help with the digital re-presentation of two excellent responses to Cherryburn and to Bewick. We are also excited to see two new digital art commissions responding to Bewick and his times.”

AviAlarm is the second artwork from On-Site/Off-Site to go live. Marcus Coates’ Video Conference for the Birds, shows a group of birds discussing their life, their habitats, and their concerns for the future on a video conference call.

You can try out the filters on Hanna’s Instagram page here: @Hanna_Tuulikki.

Find out more about On-Site/Off-Site here


The puffin filter from Avi-Alarm

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