Artefact Planning and Research for Birdy

In order to discover new possibilities to present as an artefact, my group and I thought it would be best to analyse the implicit of both the film and the book; this lead to us to meeting as a group and brain storming what we believed were crucial elements to consider. Below are two images of work produced during these meetings.


The above image shows our process in separating themes within the book/film, and key points that were most crucial to the message intended by both creators. We found that some of the most important themes included: social norms, youth, sexuality, isolation, obsession, friendship, and courage. Although on the surface the film is about two friends and their bond despite the one character’s obsession of birds, the underlying messages conveyed through symbolism were more important to focus on; this pushed our artefact ideas away from pre-existing objects in the film  to objects with more symbolic depth.

The image above shows the our outline for research. We felt that writing out our ideas would help guide our drawings and our mutual understanding of what we had to do.

So what is the Implicit meaning/ true meaning of Birdy and Al’s story?

On the surface, Birdy is the most estranged/ mentally troubled character in the film; he has an unhealthy obsession with birds and cares for them seemingly more so than human interactions.  On the other hand, Al is significantly more ‘normal’; he lives a normal life, has normal interests as a teenager (Girls/ friends/ Sports/Appearance). However, Birdy accepts who is and does not mask his interests (even if deemed strange by others), whilst Al exhibits his own unhealthy, mental problems (violent outbursts/anxiety), whilst hiding his true emotions by obeying social norms.

I feel that the characters in the film are purposely juxtaposed to make commentary on what is considered to be normal, and what is to be considered sane; should we say Al is sane simply because he usually behaves normally whilst he has mental problems of a similar extent to Birdy? Should we say Birdy is insane simply because he’s honest about something he’s aware is not deemed socially acceptable?

The present time in the film seems to mark Al’s gradual awakening to his own mental instability- this is also what seems to have drawn him to Birdy as a friend from the very start; their dis-functionality. After Al had experienced war and had subsequently been inflicted with a facial injury and his appearance had been permanently changed, his usual desire to be socially accepted has been tested and called into question.

After completing my own analysis, I’ve found it ironic that even whilst Birdy cared for birds so much, Al was the one being caged; from not wanting to face the judgement of others e.g. his father, peers. Additionally, masking his face seemed to push Al in wanting to unmask himself as a person and his true thoughts on his issues. Birdy on the other hand, seemed to claw to birds in times in which he found it difficult to cope with real life.

How did this help my research process?

This information has lead me to explore how to represent our artefact artistically, and with meaning whilst also paying homage to the film and it’s significant objects; the symbolism and motifs used in the film to convey themes could also be used in our artefact e.g. feathers, cages, bandages, baseballs.

Symbolism of objects in Birdy

  • 1.Feathers:
    What do they represent?
    -Unacceptable social interestsWhen do they occur in Birdy?
    Feathers mainly occured in birdy with the suits that Birdy made for both him and Al, but also on the birds he surrounds himself with, and also whilst Birdy discusses them in class.
  • 2. Bandages:
    What do they represent?
    -The unknownWhen do they occur in Birdy?
    Bandages are significant n Birdy as Al wears them after being injured in the war. They’re an important symbol as they are a major insecurity for the character, reflect his fears of being unattractive and eventually having to remove his bandages to see the damage.
  • 3. Birds:
    What do they represent?
    -RefugeWhen do they occur in Birdy?
    They are used majorly and consistently throughout the film.  Birdy collects countless birds in his youth (both street and pet birds), but birds also represent birdy’s descent into madness (a flock of birds fly just before an explosion whilst at war, but Birdy also acts just like a bird after his incident). Additionally, Birdy resorts to thinking and revolving his life around this animal when he’s anxious.
  • 4. Baseballs:
    What do they represent?
    – Youth
    -JoyWhen do they occur in Birdy?
    Baseballs are a major motif in Birdy; Birdy’s mother continually hid baseballs she found throughout his teen years. This seems to represent Birdy’s mother and her negative/ confusing attitude toward social norms and what she did and didn’t want Birdy to do; whilst wanting her son to go to dances and socialise like a normal boy of his age, she also sent him confusing messages about abstaining from socially acceptable activities.
  • 5. Cage:
    What do they represent?
    -Being trapped
    -Living like a birdWhen do they occur in Birdy?
    Birdy continually sits in his own bird cage in his bedroom with his birds. Also, both Birdy and Al collected birds in small cage. Both Al and Birdy were placed into a prison after driving in an untaxed car (resulting in Birdy anxiously pacing). Additionally, Birdy also is trapped in a  confinement in the asylum after Vietnam. Birdy admits that he hates how birds are caged.
  • 6.Window:
    What do they represent?
    -DesireWhen do they occur in Birdy?
    When Al leaves for war and Birdy looks out to the street, his bird escapes and smashes through window (dying). Also, when Birdy sits in his cell looking out the window.
  • 7. Birdy’s large home made wings:
    What do they represent?
    -Desperation to be a bird
    -Longing to be different
    -Being born into the wrong bodyWhen do they occur in Birdy?
    These wings are first introduced just before Birdy confronts Al’s father, then are introduced again after Birdy takes flight whilst wearing them after jumping from Al’s bike.
  • 8. Birdy’s tiny birdy model:
    What do they represent?
    -Desperation to be accepted
    -LongingWhen do they occur in Birdy?
    The model occurs whilst Birdy is presenting is work focuses on birds whilst at school and he explains why he find birds fascinating. After giving his presentation, his class mocks him.

    Birdy Artefact Concept Ideas

    Below are some of my concept sketches for my team’s artefact project. My ideas for these sketches were to encapsulate all the key themes and motifs within Birdy and represent them visually; this was quite easy as there was plenty of symbolic imagery within the film.

    My first sketch below explores how the character Birdy is caged by social conformity and is surrounded by things deemed to be conventionally ‘normal’ (the bird in the cage represents Birdy). The baseballs and the bandages rapped around the rest in the larger cage represent both Al’s character, but also social conformity. As the baseballs are hidden from Birdy by his mother in the film, I feel that they represent her unwillingness for her son to take part in ‘normal’ activities and are key to understanding why he may not behave like a conventional teen.The bandages are significant in the film as they represent Al’s emotional turmoil and vanity whilst he desperately hides from his facial wounds.
    Concept art 1

    The concept sketch below explores the idea of creating a scene as an artefact; my team decided against this as we started to worry that this result would not fit the initial brief. As the film is set during the time of the Vietnam war and this is crucial to the story, I felt that manipulating this may create some nice juxtaposition with our artefact. Whilst working with symbolic imagery in the film, I wanted to include moss, grass, and muck to our artefact to show a shocking contrast between the character’s teen lives to what their lives were like in the war; this transition seems to have been the cause of significant developments to our characters views and attitudes toward themes in the film.Concept art 2

    Artistic Influences

    As my team wanted to focus on the symbolism in Birdy, we realised we needed to look at some artist’s who created work which strongly conveyed serious themes through symbolism. Johnson Tsang and Salvador Dali proved to be excellent influences for this task.

    Salvador Dali

    As Salvador Dali’s was a surrealist painter focusing on existential problems such as time, death,sexuality, and did this by using recognisable objects such as clocks, or humans in incongruous circumstances,  I felt that he’s be a suitable reference for representing similar themes found in Birdy.

    I initially felt like creating a scene for our artefact due to the work of Salvador Dali and how he commonly constructed his paintings. Whilst using everyday objects, I found it to be quite unnerving to find them in such an archaic, uncommon form; this is why I felt it would be of benefit in our artefact due to the film’s unsettling,shocking themes and events.

    Above is Salvador Dali’s painting ‘The Persistence of Time’

    Johnson Tsang

    I also decided to look at sculptural artist Johnson Tsang after finding his work on Pinterest. As a contemporary artist, I felt like his work would be quite important and impactful for our project; contemporary artists tend to make commentary on contemporary political/social issues- this would serve great relevance to the themes in the film. Additionally,  Tsang’s work served relevance due to his use of cages and how they commonly represent the human mind and it’s restrictions.

    Johnson tsang



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