Flight of the Monarchs
Rob Mackay - 2016

Flight of the Monarchs was initially created as an immersive audiovisual installation inspired by the incredible 3,000-mile journey that the Monarch butterfly takes each year from Canada to Mexico, finding warmer climes during the winter in order to roost. The installation is set up to resemble
a hide into which the viewer/listener can step inside and be transported to southern Mexico, surrounded with Monarch butterflies. The viewer/listener is surrounded by four video screens and four loudspeakers. We took the installation to the Eden Project, Shambala and Musicport in 2017, and are continuing the project in 2018 onwards, working with Monarch scientists and other artists from around the world.

I recorded video and sound footage at the El Rosario reserve in Michoacan in 2015, trying to capture the beauty of these delicate butterflies and their surroundings. Video footage from Manuel Zirate is also featured in the top panel, and video editing was done by Jessica Rodriguez. The sound for the installation is comprised of three elements: field recordings which capture the rushing sound of millions of tiny wings (as well as one or two tourists); a specially commissioned poem from Mexican poet Rolando Rodriguez (La Marcha de las Mariposas); and a recording of an improvisation session between myself ( flute, ocarina), David Blink (hang), and John Sanders (accordion), which we conducted in the open air in Michaocan (this has been processed to create a dreamlike quality, reflecting the words of Rolando’s poetry). In January this year, I returned to Mexico and visited the Cerro Pelón reserve to install a streambox (created by Soundcamp) which broadcasts the sounds of the forest over the Locus Sonus Soundmap, integrating with Leah Barclay’s UNESCO Biosphere Soundscapes project. Tonight’s performance will integrate the live stream from Cerro Pelón with a fixed media version of the piece.