1,500 Red-Crowned Cranes

Text, sound, and sculpture installation, Cardinal, Baltimore, MD, 2019

1,500 Red-Crowned Cranes is a layered, intricate, installation work about bodies in migration, the consequences of borders and boundaries, and the imaginative potential of in-between spaces. The title references the rare crane species that winters in the heavily guarded Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Because the DMZ has been uninhabitable by humans for over 60 years, it has become one of the most well-preserved areas of temperate habitat in the world. The red-crowned crane, east Asia’s symbol of peace and longevity, of which there are approximately 1,500 migratory species left, survives primarily because of its ability to winter in this region.

Audiences first encounter the installation in the gallery’s front room, a “library.” Here, handmade tables and shelves offered words, sounds and objects. If you placed your head gently on the tables you could listen to the audio tracks through the surface of the table. This was accomplished using small transducers attached to the underside of the table. Sounds selected for this installation included pink noise and spoken texts. The pink noise pattern, 1/f occurs in many natural physical systems such as traffic flow, heartbeat rhythms and has even been discovered in origami models and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto no. 1. The ordered chaos of pink noise was a metaphor for the DMZ.

On a high shelf that lined the perimeter of the room, objects were carefully displayed. Some objects appear to be precious and ritualistic, others day-to-day ephemera and easily discarded materials. The objects evoke both the feeling that that a group of people have made a hasty retreat and the discovery of a cryptic archaeological site. From the street level, the objects are just nearly out of view and out of reach. A mezzanine up a short flight of stairs provided a broader bird’s eye view of the entire “library” though objects still maintain their elusive quality, asking the question of who has and who should have access to personal and historical artifacts.

The origami cranes were used to create a community ritual and performance that allowed visitors to reflect on the colonial history of Japan and Korea in addition to the precarity of the remaining red-crowned cranes. The goal during the exhibition was to fold 1,500 cranes, one for each of the remaining migratory animals in the wild.

In an enclosed, dimly lit, back room of the gallery, I presented as if from above and through, a four-channel sound work that uses noise colors (pink, violet, and brown) and pure sine tones as the foundation of the composition. The room was designed to feel like a limbo, a disorienting in-between experience emphasized by the rhythmic beating patterns and tonal sequences of the composition.

A small chapbook was published as a companion to the exhibition. We’ve imagines an impossible space in which survivors of an apocalypse are also the first discoverers and explorers of a new world.

The hyphen is a connector, but it is also a tensioned line, pulling in opposite directions. 1,500 Red-Crowned Cranes plays with that tension, whether that be in storied objects, prose poems, pink noise, or a paper fold.

— Nora Belblidia BmoreArt Bonnie Jones’s Hyphenated Spaces

Video documentation of the installation: 

Stereo excerpt of as if from above and through:

Images of the installation: