Lyndall Phelps: The Pigeon Archive

4 Jul 2009 – 30 Aug 2009

Regular hours

11:00 – 19:00
11:00 – 17:00
11:00 – 19:00
11:00 – 19:00
11:00 – 19:00
11:00 – 19:00

Cost of entry


MK Gallery

Milton Keynes, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Local Buses: Frequent daily buses run from Central Bus Station and Milton Keynes Central rail station stops on Midsummer Boulevard outside MK Gallery and Milton Keynes Theatre.
  • Nearest station: Milton Keynes Central

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Artist Lyndall Phelps' exhibition The Pigeon Archive, documents the re-enactment of pigeon manoeuvres undertaken during both World Wars, through photographs, film and other paraphernalia. In the Second World War it was recommended that every military aircraft leaving Britain carry two pigeons in case of emergency. If the plane was shot down, pigeons were dispatched carrying the survivor's coordinates for rescue. Homing pigeons were also parachuted behind enemy lines in order to retrieve crucial information on enemy manoeuvres for the British and Allied Forces. Some even carried miniature cameras to document military sites behind enemy lines. Although large numbers of pigeons lost their lives through starvation, exhaustion, being killed by the enemy or exposure to harsh elements on homing flights, Phelps is particularly interested in the procedures that inhibited or denied their natural behaviour. These included restricting the birds' wing movement by strapping their bodies with elastic harnessing before parachuting them from planes. The first of three series of photographs Phelps has created for this exhibition captures pigeons in flight wearing cardboard tube message carriers on their back. The second sees pigeons descending through the air, bound and attached to parachutes. The third references the unlikely union of pigeons being transported, bound and incapable of flight, within the large, mechanical flying machines, Lancaster Bombers. Just Jane, the Lancaster Bomber at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, formed the backdrop for these photographs. Phelps has also devised a miniature video camera holder for pigeons to wear, resulting in a ‘pigeon's-eye-view' film over the Cambridgeshire countryside which will be shown as part of the exhibition, which pays tribute to these unsung and unusual heroes. The Pigeon Archive Race Saturday 18 July, 11am Events Plateau, Campbell Park A special pigeon race will be held in Campbell Park, central Milton Keynes while Lyndall Phelps will also release pigeons with video cameras strapped to their bodies, to document the race from ‘a pigeon's eye view'. No need to book. Gallery Talks Meet the Artist: Lyndall Phelps Saturday 18 July, 1pm, Free. Join artist Lyndall Phelps as she talks through the historical themes of her exhibition The Pigeon Archive. You may wish to make a day of it and attend the special pigeon race in Campbell Park beforehand at 11am (subject to weather conditions). Pre-booking required on 01908 676 900. BSL interpretation is available on request with prior notice. Talkback Saturday 22 August, 1 — 2pm, Free. Take a walk around The Pigeon Archive and Silent Revolution exhibitions with a member of the Gallery's education team. Talkbacks are informal discussion-based tours, including audio description of the works discussed. No booking required.

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