In this performative action, the artist remained motionless next to a hummingbird feeder for two hours—moving only to refill her red-painted ear with an eyedropper containing home-made nectar. This particular image of cross-species intimacy and gift-giving is a concept Kendler made drawings of almost a decade prior and was finally able to attempt at ACRE residency in Wisconsin’s Driftless region—making this ‘offering’ to the many local Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris). As the artist stood next to the feeder, remaining still long enough for the hummingbirds to approach and fly past her ears—a somatic sonic experience occurred that defied words. This performative gesture contained both an implied threat, considering the long sharp beak and a fragile eardrum; and an embedded eroticism, a vulnerability and a desire.
“Ultimately, the hummers never accepted my offering. This was my expectation, and reignited a hard lesson from a childhood of unrequited 'friendships' with non-human beings. Many humans, like me, long for a closeness and intimacy with the natural world—most especially with the beautiful non-human others we often covet or fetishize.”
The true expression of this longing has no ethical way to be fulfilled. We know it is wrong to keep a wolf in our homes, or to clip the wings of an owl so we can enjoy or even possess its beauty. Hence, our longing must simply remain an offering, with no expectation of reciprocity. Though we are certainly animals, in many ways we stand forever apart. We can never truly know “what it is to be a bat.” And yet, this does not diminish our desire to offer ourselves as companions to the non-human world. Whether through acts of imagination, acts of empathy, or acts of care, we can never quite reach the other side. Although, it is meaningful for us to try, and it never hurts to offer.
Videographer Credit: Ryan Bach