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The Pillar
by Stephen Gill

2019 Les Rencontres d'Arles Author Book award

The landscape that surrounds my home in Sweden can be misleading. The bird activity it holds is diluted and disguised by the vast flat open land and sky that offers an impression of little going on.

In January 2015, with an inkling of bird activity being more prominent than at first met my eyes, I decided to try to pull them out of the sky. I set up an 8cm diameter stage in the form of a wooden pillar that was around one and half meters in height, and opposite it another the same on which I mounted a camera that was triggered by motion.

I visited the camera a few days later and, to my surprise, it had worked. The pillar somehow managed to funnel the birds from the sky by offering them a place to rest, feed, nurse their young, and observe. I was captivated immediately. The images were often unsettled, the birds awkward like contortionists, completely off-beat and the shapes and soft lines created were so arresting.

From my kitchen window the pillar could be seen in the distance like a matchstick in the flat distance. My absence in turn somehow allowed a greater mental presence during the making of the work. I was frequently there though only in my mind, wondering what was happening at that very moment as I sat on a local train, or went about my daily routine. Even when I was out of the country I would be imagining the activity on the stage.

— Stephen Gill

Text by Karl Ove Knausgård.
224 pp.
120 black-and-white & color plates