Budapest, Art on Lake, 2011
Josef Bernhardt has been concerned with nature for many years, and with the characteristics, destruction and despoliation of the environment. The basis of his installation is „Birds“, a series of photographs taken years ago in Budapest, where the main focus is given over to the life and death of the feral birds who live together and around us. His installation brings the devastation of the natural world to our closest attention. The installation titled Waiting for the Birds II is not a new work, but was made in 2005 and has already featured in Forchtenstein, Japan, and in the Museum District of Vienna. The „forest“ of bird-feeders placed on red-painted columns lined up in phalanx formation is a dramatically evocative work, which can be understood and interpreted at once, without any previous knowledge of Josef Bernhardt’s art and thought. It speaks with an elemental artistic force of the relationship between humans and nature, the living world and the life of birds, and how we must live together, reminding us of our duties and responsibilities. The work unveils different layers of association, starting from the link between the natural world and the artificial urban environment, through the widespread ban on feeding the birds – such as in St Mark’s Square in Venice – to the brutal campaign that is carried out against birds on window ledges and rooftops, and the obligations that people have to protect the living world, including birds, from mindless destruction. The first decade of the 21st century was also the time of bird flu hysteria, when passionate tempers flared based on real or imagined fears, taking us all far away from the ideals of St Francis of Assisi, which were once such a defining element of European culture. Josef Bernhardt’s work is a reflection of these concepts.