TAKING OVER

2019 December - 2020 May

Short film project in response to “Living Cities: Towards Ecological Urbanism”

Collaborated with Lilien Li, Sarah Roy and Saul Pankhurst

"Living Cities Film Screening", Edinburgh College of Art Graduate Show, Summer 2020

3m30s / UK / 4:3 / 2020

In the urban area of Edinburgh, gulls occupy public spaces during the evening and early hours of the morning.

This habitat is therefore shared by multiple species including gull and human, but competition has never stopped.

Urban gulls live incredibly close to us, and they constantly hover around bins like scavengers. Many gulls are recognized as pests due to their disturbing noises and nesting behaviors on rooftops, meanwhile their population in UK is threatened (for example, the herring gull). Nevertheless, in the late evening or early morning gulls are seen resting and occupying empty public spaces such as the Meadows or parking lots, as though they are finally allowed to sleep on their huge shared bed after humans are back to their own houses. It almost feels like there are shifts and rotations for the ownership of urban spaces, resonating with the spinning sun and moon.

 

Instead of drilling into the controversial judgements, the short film raises the discussion of shared territories. Every creature has their own boundaries which cannot be violated but can be slightly adjustable. For example, the trees have their “crown shyness” to avoid interfering with other trees, and flatmates usually have an implicit sense of understanding, naturally forming a schedule about bathroom or kitchen occupation. In terms of the urban area, different occupants utilize the public spaces at different times, like different layers overlapping on the same territory. The layer of humans is switched off during the night, and the layer of birds is pushed to the side while daylight shines again.

This short film is a response to the concept of ecological urbanism. Before we can start to imagine an ecofriendly city, we must think about what kind of cohabitation we are having with other species at the moment. Some may feel that humans built and therefore own the urban area. However, to non-human species, humans are just occupying the place like they do. This film is not demanding a solution. Instead, it aims to provoke a review on the tangled and dynamic relationship between humans and gulls.