David Blyth

Blyth introduces his talk as a work in progress, happening ‘as we speak’ and ongoing. If it possible to talk about a beginning to this work then it is with a story of two Woodcocks that arrive from different places and are delivered in a moment of strange synchronicity to Blyth just after bonfire night a month before. The arrival of the birds, perhaps the least visible migrants to the shores of Aberdeen, inspired Blyth to undertake a period of intense research into their habits and the different traditions of knowledge that surround them from ecological, hunting and culinary towards the mythological and artistic. Blyth’s storytelling around the birds seemed to imitate their circular movements including their 360 degree vision and anticlockwise or ‘widdershins’ flight paths as well as their habit of following their mate in circles around trees. Blyth likens the taxidermist to a funeral director or temporary agent who arrives at a particular point, a point of passing, to take care, like a spirit guide for the animals in a journey to somewhere else. He uses the French word passager, evocative of travel and temporary locations, to describe this fleeting or flighting encounter.

As spirit guide he is listening for messages from the birds and finds them intuitively in the details of their existence and the stories from different bodies of knowledge that collide, producing clues for the artist to proceed. In hunting terminology he describes an inner fraternity of hunters named after the Woodcocks, an exclusive club for those able to shoot two birds with one barrel. From the butcher he relates the slightly archaic sounding tradition of eating almost all of the animal, including its cranial juices, and also registers another reversal in that the white meat can be found on the leg and the dark meat on the body. This combined with the widdershins flight inspires the artist to try to enact his own reversals – reflecting that a video of his own taxidermy processes played backwards could be a kind of resurrection. Finally, Blyth traces a path to ancient Egypt and the legend of Osiris’s resurrection through his dark sister’s fashioning of a missing body part for the god; a wooden cock. So we are returned to the wooden structures built by the taxidermist in a quest for life likeness. 


Audio Title: 
David Blyth, Aberdeen
Audio Accession Number: 
HW. 002
Audio Speaker: 
David Blyth
Audio Annotation: 
A talk given to open the Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) series curated by Gausden
Audio Location: 
Aberdeen Art Gallery
Audio Date: 
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Audio Duration: 
Audio Type: 
Public Talk
Audio Technical: 
Audio Recording type: 
Audacity recorded from video