About the Project
In the face of human-caused biodiversity loss, conservation efforts for avian and countless other species have turned to data. Much like human datasets, however, conservation datasets are an imperfect tool. They contain biases and misclassifications, are collected through harmful practices, and have the potential to distract from the systemic causes of the problems they are purported to solve. Salvaging Birds traces these logics of environmental datafication. Experimenting with a form that Livio has called “expanded nonfiction,” it is a research-driven project consisting of an essay, machine learning-generated birdsong, generative digital imagery, and music. By examining sites such as natural history specimen collections and community science platforms, as well as speculatively queering birdsong datasets, Salvaging Birds complicates datafied approaches to conserving what and who is left of our world.
Research & Writing: Maya Livio
Concept & Art Direction: Maya Livio
AI-Generated Birdsong: Maya Livio, JP Merz, Raymond Finzel
Images: Cassie McQuater
Composition: JP Merz
Flute: Yoshi Weinberg
Web Design: Maya Livio
Maya Livio (she/her) researches, makes media, and curates on questions of living and dying on a networked planet. Rooted in a commitment to social and environmental justice, her work builds cross-disciplinary bridges spanning research and practice while probing at the contact zones between technological systems and ecosystems. Her projects and writing have been featured in, written about, and supported by places such as The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts, RedLine Contemporary Art Center, The Washington Post, the Institute of Network Cultures, NPR, Femmebit, Complex Magazine, VICE, The Baltimore Sun, The Denver Post, Labocine, and Vanity Fair. She holds a PhD from the University of Colorado and a MA from the University of Amsterdam.
Livio’s work in cultural production and strategy has included programming and commissioning art and discourse as Curator of MediaLive, an annual media arts festival at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA), and as Curator of the Media Archaeology Lab, a space for hands-on research with historical technologies.
JP Merz (he/him) is a Los Angeles-based composer whose music investigates accessibility, equity, and empathy while questioning notions of virtuosity and encouraging subtle listening. His music has been performed by yMusic, Altius Quartet, Playground Ensemble, Sound of Ceres, and the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, as well as by members of the JACK quartet, Boulder Symphony, and Denver Philharmonic. His work has been featured by and played in Carnegie Hall, New Music Gathering, Madison New Music Festival, San Francisco Fringe Festival, the Abrons Arts Center, the National Flute Association, ACRE gallery, VICE’s Creator’s Project, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and I Care if You Listen, as well as record stores, cafes, and living rooms. In addition to composing for musicians, he has collaborated with dancers, algorithms, electrical engineers, internet researchers, and robots.
Cassie McQuater (she/her) is a new media and video game artist living and working in Los Angeles. Her practice involves hours of surfing the net, mining for digital artifacts, and repurposing them as a way to reflect on and reinvent our relationship with interactive storytelling. Grounded in the practice of net art, investigating networked systems of digital power, her work often deals with themes of cyberfeminism while critiquing and seeking to subvert sexist tropes in video games and media. Exploring modes of representation and cultural production, she frequently distributes work for free over the web, as a way to give back to the communities which make it possible. She received her BFA in painting from the University of Michigan School of Art & Design in 2009, and she taught herself to code and started working in interactive media and video games in 2013.
Raymond Finzel (he/him) is a researcher, programmer, informaticist, and occasional installation artist working in Minnesota. Among his interests are experience, emotion, information, and the flow therebetween.
Commissioned by Environmental Futures with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library and Erin Espelie.