The Forced American Dream (Our first home in the USA)

Performative lecture

Presented at the CDRL (Curatorial Design Research Lab)

Orozco Room, The New School, April 2016

This presentation introduces audiences to the historical narrative of the first successful introduction of house sparrow (Passer domesticus L.) to the Americas, via Brooklyn in 1856-57. This information was researched and developed with the assistance of librarians and historians at the Brooklyn Museum Library and at the Green-Wood Cemetery Archives. Both these institutions are directly tied to the story; a fact neither of them were aware of until I approached them with this project.

During the lecture I shift between first person and plural 'we', slipping between my own findings as an artist-curator-researcher ‘human’ and the house sparrow species' narrating of their arrival into Northern America. The work employs the language of migration, mobilisation, forced-relocation, introduction; to point towards the manner in which the human is present in the narrative of introduced species, particularly those tied to nineteenth century notions of coloniality. The partnership between these two institutions serves as a conduit through which to discuss the slippage of narrator as well as the two sites where the birds were kept upon arrival due to concerns over their well-being in the winter months. The tower of a building no longer in existence at the Green-Wood Cemetery and a room at the Brooklyn Institute, were the birds' first homes in Northern America.