I Love When Canaries Are Singing (2019)

Installation. Armchairs, indoor plants, table, stuffed birds from recycled materials, the sound of singing canaries.

“Miner’s canary” is an expression that means something that alarms one to danger. In the past, miners took cages with canaries to the mine, because the birds’ sensitivity to methane helped them avoid this ubiquitous underground threat. The canaries were killed by the smallest amount of gas.

Lia Dostlieva uses this historical tale as the central image of her project “I love when canaries are singing”. She places yellow birds in the interior of the cosy room. In the atmosphere of security and calmness, the artist asks the audience: “Can contemporary art take over the role of the miner’s canary, or does it serve as an attractive and safe ornament of the interior? Is society ready to notice and respond to such warnings?”

The artist turns the story into an imaginary experiment. Of course, it’s better to hear singing canaries than to suffocate in deadly odourless methane. But doesn’t the artists lose something by remaining alive, by being a living creator of purely decorative art? Don’t they, in this way, reject the role of defender of society, albeit a very vulnerable one? The paradox of Dostlieva’s project is that at the exhibition the canaries are, like the experimental cat, alive and dead at the same time. The cosy room is like a borderline state in which artists can dare to sing or descent into a mine, while the spectators, both the interested and the indifferent, mat hear singing.

Text: Borys Filonenko
Images: Yevgen Nikiforov
Created for The 2nd National Biennale of Young Modern Art
2019 The 2nd National Biennale of Young Modern Art, Kharkiv, Ukraine