Tell it to the Birds: Jenny Kendler

This sound art installation invites you to confess a secret into a lichen-scented hemisphere. Custom software then live "translates" your words into birdsong for all to hear — yet only you know the meaning of your song. 


Birds sing to communicate with each other. We can only imagine what their own subjective experience of their songs may be. Although birdsong is not intended for humans, it has long fascinated us, inspiring musicians such as Messiaen, Pink Floyd, and Kate Bush to 'quote' birds in their compositions.

Despite the important role birds play in our environment and popular culture, they are being pushed to the edge by human expansion. Ecological threats such as habitat loss, oil and gas development, and climate change now threaten over half of birds worldwide, with over one in eight facing extinction.

Tell it to the Birds attempts to bridge the experiential gap between human and non-human animal minds. From the Common Nightingale to the Skylark, Tell it to the Birds features the songs of nine species on the UK Birds of Conservation Concern list, and two which are in conservation programmes at London Zoo/ZSL. Though the act of translation, by its nature, is always inadequate, it also creates an open-ended and unpredictable channel for connection, suggesting an implicit kinship between speakers. So what the birds may be telling us is that we make cherished kin of these singing others, lest we lose them forever.


About the artist

Jenny Kendler is an interdisciplinary ecological artist, environmental activist, naturalist and wild forager whose work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at museums, biennials and public and natural areas. For the past two decades, her work has focused on climate change and biodiversity loss, seeking to re-enchant our relationship to the more-than-human world. More of her work can be seen at


Part of the Everything is Connected season produced by the Cultural programme, part of the Humanities Division at the University of Oxford