A Break in the Homing Instinct

Artist book comprising ink on papers
By: Layla Grace O'connor

Artist Statement:

This work stems from a childhood memory of when I once kept pet birds as a young child. On one occasion, my father kept the window open while we let what would be our last bird fly around the apartment. Eventually, it flew away to freedom. The work reflects my dread of what was to come after graduating from secondary school - the fear of the future, losing close friends, familiar surroundings, freedoms, and the overall sense of comfort. I chose to convey the gripping feelings of dealing with a great change through taxidermy, a process that on one hand symbolizes the end of a life, but on the other the start of a new one. Just like my pet budgie that never found its way home that day, we may never return back to the state that we once were in. However, in hindsight this was merely a break in the homing instinct, as there is always the potential to find a new “home” or sense of comfort even if things are different.

The use of a textbook, constructed in the manner of a generic textbook and the pages featuring my own schoolwork, provided a link to the idea of education as the “change”, an idea that reflected my uncertain emotions on leaving school, moving to a new institution, and who I might become because of that. Part of the stylistic inspiration and reference also came from taxidermy textbooks, which were found to be pragmatic and direct when dealing with grim subject matter. I found that this mirrored how youths are made to make such big choices, choosing career paths and courses for further education - yet that transition to that next phase feels so nonchalant. The book as a medium gradually builds tension and suspense through revealing the scenes as one flips through it, with the imagery intensifying until a final de-escalation at the end, conveying my feelings from a period of being really anxious to accepting my situation.

By: Layla Grace O'connor

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