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Goddard's Blue Sky Thinking at Ulster Museum explores migration and climate change

Anne Stewart, Senior Curator of Art at National Museums NI, with the Blue Sky Thinking exhibition
Ulster Museum
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Ulster Museum will host Patrick Goddard’s 'Blue Sky Thinking' sculpture until October 30. The piece, now available to view, forms part of the Museum’s Blue Sky Thinking: New Art, New Themes, New Acquisitions exhibition, which addresses themes of migration, identity and the climate emergency.

Conceived as a floor-based installation, the piece features 180 dead ring-necked parakeets. Goddard, who studied at Goldsmiths, London, and the Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, sculpted each bird in clay before casting it in lead recycled from London roofs.  

His choice of non-indigenous parakeets deliberately taps into the current discourse around human migration and border control, and also to his ecological concerns, which align with National Museums NI’s. The organisation is part of a global coalition led by the EU Commission, which helps to raise awareness about the crucial need to protect the world’s biodiversity

Parakeets have become acclimatised to London parks and gardens, despite being non-indigenous to the UK. The increasing, incongruous presence of these ancient and exotic birds lends an unexpected beauty to the city’s streetscape and has fuelled urban myth.

Artist, Patrick Goddard, commented:

I’m excited for visitors to experience Blue-Sky thinking at  Ulster Museum. The deceased birds are scattered as though they have just dropped from the sky.  Parakeets are a very common invasive species in the UK and as the winters have gotten less harsh due to global warming, their numbers continue to grow. For me, they become a symbol of both globalisation, global warming and the Anthropocene more generally.

“The use of lead also echoes these concerns of environmental decay. The work feels simultaneously catastrophic and cinematic. As visitors walk through the detritus of dead birds to experience it, hopefully they feel somehow complicit in whatever calamity has befallen these birds.”  

Blue Sky Thinking: New Art, New Themes, New Acquisitions, features some of Northern Ireland’s most important contemporary works, which explore a variety of prescient themes, including migration and identity. In addition to Blue-Sky Thinking, it features a number of sculptures and audio-visual pieces from Ulster Museum’s 20th Century and Contemporary Art collection. These include Home, a video installation by Willie Doherty, Silent Echoes, a sound sculpture by Bill Fontana and Birdman, a sculpture by Elisabeth Frink.

Doherty’s Home explores the issues of refugees and immigration, questioning the context of migration and social affiliation. Fontana’s Silent Echoes, which features a recording of the sounds from the dormant bells of Notre Dame Cathedral, examines a hidden world of perpetual acoustic energy. Meanwhile, Elisabeth Frink’s Birdman, a half-man, half-bird figure, depicts the heroism and vulnerability of humanity.

Anne Stewart, Senior Curator of Art at National Museums NI, said:

We are excited to welcome visitors to Blue-Sky Thinking: New Art, New Themes, New Acquisitions. The display harnesses internationally important pieces from our collection to explore urgent themes such as migration, identity and climate change.

“This exhibition offers diverse perspectives on culture, history and society and we hope that it will inspire people and promote respect and empathy. We also hope that it will make people think about pursuing sustainable lifestyles and ways that they can help to mitigate climate change.”