single-channel digital video, HD, colour, sound, 15min 17s
Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with the assistance of MCA Young Ambassadors, 2013
Artist Hayden Fowler explores humanity’s relationship with the natural world and the broader historical and cultural concepts that influence this engagement. The artist is known for his technically complex productions, which involve long periods of research, the construction of elaborate sets and specialised training for a range of domestic animals, including goats, lambs and rats. Recurring themes within his interdisciplinary practice are ideas surrounding desire, freedom, loss and ‘the romantic hope for a return to nature’.
In the video New World Order (2013) Fowler depicts a dense woodland of blackened and sallow trees inhabited by an ‘ecology’ of peculiar birds. Ashen and barren, this eerie environment resembles something between a scene from a fairy tale and a vision of a post-apocalyptic future. Animating this strange world is a group of rare, heritage breed chickens, whose unusual plumages are completely unlike the common domestic and commercial fowl breeds we are more familiar with. Preening high up on a branch, scratching the scabby ground or slipping under the tree roots into underground burrows, the chickens appear completely at home in this unnatural place. At regular intervals a bird will call, emitting a computerised sound of blips and clicks that punctuates the silence of the dark forest.
New World Order appears to exist out of time, incorporating elements from both the past and the future. Presented as a series of sliding vignettes, the video draws on both historical and contemporary depictions of nature, from landscape paintings and museum dioramas through to wildlife documentary films.
An underlying theme within a number of Fowler’s works is the relationship between the real and the fictitious. New World Order continues this exploration by depicting a scenario in which there is no clear distinction between authentic or synthetic nature. As the video progresses we begin to query what it is we are seeing – Are they real birds? What is that noise they are making? Where is the forest? But in this hybrid world such questions no longer seem to have any meaning.
Drawing on contemporary discussions around ecological destruction, genetic modification and the alienation of an increasingly urban society from the natural environment, New World Order presents a place that merges scientific theory with popular culture. However, even though New World Order may suggest a dystopic future, there is hope, for life continues even in this barren place.