Sing 2021

Sing comprises of one-hundred handwoven pendant nests containing mini speakers playing pre-recorded bird songs suspended from the gallery ceiling. Sing is an immersive and poetic work that reflects delicate and intricate natural connections in remaining ‘wild’ environments. A Copyright Agency Create Grant has funded the work. 

Debbie Symons
SING, 2021

Sing is an outcome of my recent international Labverde residency in Manaus, State of Amazonia, Brazil. The Labverde program is designed to develop innovative studies in the cultural field in conjunction with a team of specialists in arts, humanities, biology, ecology and natural science. It was a remarkable experience, and the resulting installation fulfils the program’s aims to promote aesthetic and poetic expressions that boost a conscious relationship between humankind and nature. 


The Yellow-rumped Cacique nest is a pendant nest shape. This structure is a common nest form of many tropical bird species, including birds from the oropendolas, orioles, weavers, sunbirds, and caciques families who weave elongated nests with pliable materials such as grasses and plant fibres suspending their nests from branches. These listed species are predominantly found in equatorial regions in South and Central America, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Southern China and Northern Australia. Many of these regions listed above have witnessed an explosion of deforestation, with native tropical rainforest felled and cleared and replaced with homogenous rows of oil palms in the past 30 years. 

In  2018, the tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover. And in 2019, the tropics lost another 11.9 million hectares of tree cover, equating to losing a football pitch of primary rainforest every six seconds.  Rainforests are biodiversity hotspots, with more species found within these niche environments than anywhere else on the planet. Rainforests also capture and store gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, which is released during deforestation events. 

The nests exhibited in Sing are reflective of the cacique nests, both in texture and colour. However, rather than being made of indigenous Amazonian flora, the nests in Sing are created with African palm oil fronds – a plant being cultivated as an industrial, agricultural crop following the clearing of tropical rainforests globally.

The work seeks to explore emotions of loss and wonder and initiate reflection. It questions the audience to consider the intricate lives of rainforest birds and the rich biodiversity they are part of, challenging the audience to consider where tropical bird species will thrive when their native environment is removed through deforestation?  Palm oil plantations are a byproduct of deforestation, and they grow on lands that were once places sustaining the richest biodiversity on the planet. They are homogeneous environments, void of spaces in which tropical birds would find food to sustain a population or suitable places to suspend their nests. Hence the materiality of the nests in Sing is vital in the conversation of tropical species survival. Humankind’s removal of wild spaces is a significant element in what scientists call the sixth mass extinction event that we are currently witnessing across the globe.

Sing is a new installation work that was exhibited at Bayside Gallery from March 13 to May 9, 2021.

Media Release – Debbie Symons’ Sing – 21 February 2021

Many thanks to the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund for their support.