Conference of the Neighbours
Conference of the Neighbours is a bronze portrait of trees and birds dwelling in the neighbourhood surrounding the Bessarion Community Centre. The design is based on interaction with local flora and fauna and on the observations of community members. The Conference of the Birds (c. 1177) is a celebrated epic poem written in Persian by the poet Farid ud-Din Attar. In the poem, the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their king. The wise hoopoe leads the birds, each of whom represent a human flaw, on a search for the legendary Simorgh, a mythical Persian bird. When thirty of the birds reach the dwelling place of the Simorgh, all they find is a lake in which they see their own reflection: “si morgh” translates to “thirty birds” in Persian – together, as a group, the thirty birds have found their king. Commonly considered an allegory for the search for enlightenment, The Conference of the Birds is also a story of community dialogue and group achievement.
Conference of the Neighbours stands on the entry walkway to the Bessarion Community Centre as a monument to remind the local community of the value of mutual support, dialogue and group achievements. The Conference takes place in a Sweetgum tree planted among thirteen other Sweetgums on the entry walkway between Sheppard Street and the Centre. This particular tree is a conglomeration of bronze parts branches, trunks, and “gumballs” made by casting different Sweetgum trees from around the neighbourhood. This ageless bronze tree is a portrait of trees of different ages and sizes who are all arboreal citizens of the same city – their parts duplicated and collaged together to create a playful interpretation of a tree of trees.
In the tree’s branches sit thirty birds, also cast in bronze and painted in vivid colours. The birds are portraits of local avian citizens. A call will be made to the community surrounding the Bessarion Community Centre to submit drawings and paintings of birds they have observed in the area. These drawings will be interpreted in three dimensions by the artists, then cast in bronze, painted, and placed to join the conference in the collaged Sweetgum tree and nearby buildings. For years to come, local community members who have submitted selected drawings to the process will be able to see their portraits perched in the tree at the entryway to their community centre. (Quoted from the winning proposal.)