Leiden Special Collections Blog

A dialogue between two birds

A dialogue between two birds Hans Waanders, A conversation (PK-2008-P-21)

Hans Waanders has had a lifelong fascination for the kingfisher and made the little bird into the epicentre of his artistic activities.

In the year 1998 an unusual correspondence took place between the Netherlands and the United States: the Dutch artist Hans Waanders (1951-2000) sent audio files of a European kingfisher, the Alcedo atthis, through email to the other side of the ocean, to receive similar files in return from his American colleague Lauri Twitchell, recording the sounds of an American kingfisher, the Megaceryle alcyon. This 'dialogue' was started by the American bird on 25 April, the last file was sent on 18 June. The audio files have been converted into a cd that was published with a booklet, containing a visualisation of the soundtrack, a map of the habitat of both species, and images of the birds' beaks, by which they can be discerned. Click here to hear an audiofragment from the dialogue.

Hans Waanders has had a lifelong fascination for the kingfisher and made the little bird into the epicentre of his artistic activities. His investigations into the nature, the appearance, the diversity and the habitat of the bird were unfolded in a systematic fashion, balancing between art and science. One of Waanders's projects was the compilation of a 'dictionary of the kingfisher', combining entries from all kinds of reference books into a new one. Also did he publish a bibliography of the literature on the kingfisher. Since they are available in very limited editions only and because of the traditional craftmanship they display, do they belong to the realm of a dedicated artist more than to the output of a scientist. The University Library has in recent times purchased several of Waanders's books and a silkscreen displaying all variants of the kingfisher's beaks.

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