Exploring the life of something other-than-human offers an opportunity to get closer to the intricate balance of natural forces on which life is built.

Yulia was commissioned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to create bird sculptures to be placed on a wildlife reserve to attract a colony of terns to a safe breeding space. This initiated an in-depth collaborative exploration into the life of the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea), and, through this prism, environmental factors and interactions between human and non-human animal.

Sometimes called the ‘sea swallow’, this graceful little sea bird makes the longest migration of any bird or animal on the planet. It spends more time in the daylight than any other living creature. Every year it flies from Arctic to Antarctic and back, covering almost 1.5 million miles in its lifetime – a distance equivalent to three times to the Moon and back!

The Arctic tern is a reminder of how the world is in constant flux and how deeply everything is interdependent. It challenges the idea of borders: how freely these birds fly over our country borders without restriction or control, yet are affected profoundly by environmental boundaries (such as using the world’s wind system to navigate its way from pole to pole).

It is a curious exercise, studying something so closely. You grow a feeling of empathy towards these birds. You have a new experience of the world. And, as you get closer to it, you get closer to yourself.

Many thanks to Mark Mitchell and Mike Fraser from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for their advice, input and support for the project.

Listen to SOUND of the ‘Colony’ installation created by Lars Koens