The respiratory system of birds consists of a small lung, with several thin-walled appendages. The number of these so-called 'air sacs' varies according to species, and serves to increase oxygen intake during the intensive act of flying. With their ultra-light physique, sturdy torso and high-frequency heartbeat, the animals are perfectly geared for the demands of flight. During exhalation, the air sacs also affect the formation of voice.
Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa's multi-part installation Third Lung (2017) arises in the context of a series of spiritistic séances, in which the artist connects with the souls of extinct species of bird. Responding to sounds detected by participants in previous séances, the artist has formed a series of clay bird-whistles. Third Lung combines these with four sculptures, forming a constellation that is to be activated through performance.
The instrument has a long history: the technique of making whistles became a practice in its own right in pre-Columbian Latin America. The whistles speak of the timeless attempt by humans to communicate with the animal kingdom, and to generate a sense of community – an attempt that today, during a period of massive species extinction, inevitably must transcend the limits of this side of reality.