Client: Christ Church Cathedral
Location: Cincinnati, OH, United States
Completion date: 2017
Artwork budget: $225,000
Murmuration is the phenomenon whereby birds in huge flocks fly in an ever-changing formation. Inspired by this concept, Anne Patterson created her installation ‘Murmuration’ for Christ Church Cathedral’s 200th anniversary. Over 1,000 individual, hand strung birds of steel, copper and brass mesh gather inside the doors of the cathedral and sweep a length of 90 feet into the nave, forming a large flock that flies down the length of the church and disperses throughout the cathedral offices and into the chapel.
Patterson had been inspired by mumuration for a long time, trying to figure out how she could capture it in an art installation. Scientists believe birds fly in formation as protection from predators, but have also discovered that each bird communicates to the seven other birds around it; if one bird does something, then seven birds will do exactly the same thing.
To Patterson, murmuration felt like a visual manifestation of what she thought of when thinking of the Spirit; something that comes over you, is larger than you, for which you do not have an explanation and like the flock of birds in formation, it can radically change shape.
Christ Church Cathedral’s outreach has had a huge impact on the community of Cincinnati––food ministries, housing ministries, and more. Each ministry feels like a coming together of individual birds, creating a beautiful thing. At the same time, the cathedral is the home where all the birds come to gather. The movement of back and forth seemed to Patterson like a mumuration, and she knew she had found the place to create this piece.
Patterson loves to work as much as possible with people from the community because they best know the it’s resources; it makes for a much stronger piece of art that resonates more deeply with the local population. Composer Patrick Harlin was also brought on to compose a piece based on 'Murmuration'. Patterson also worked closely with associate designer Kina Park and with Cincinnati lighting designer Trevor Shibley.
Developing the overall concept of the project took about three to four months, including working out how the logistics, technical aspects, and musical components would fit in. Manufacturing of the birds took several weeks, the preparation of the birds to hang in the cathedral about another week, and the physical installation of the work took place within 5 days.