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ie creative Murmuration

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Using optical illusions, this exhibition features screen prints and motorized sculptures that reference the magical moment when thousands of birds suddenly come together and synchronize their flight paths.

  • File number: EXHI1081

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ie creative is the artistic collaboration of Cheryl Hamilton & Michael Vandermeer. For over 20 years, they have produced an expansive portfolio of private & public artworks that live throughout North America. Merging optics, craftsmanship, and a thoughtful consideration of materials, their artworks play with perception & interaction. Their sculpture studio on Vancouver’s Granville Island is where they conceptualize & fabricate their artworks.             

A shape-shifting flock of starlings, called a murmuration, is amazing to see; as many as 750,000 birds join together in flight. 

The birds spread out and come together—the flock splits apart and fuses together again. 

Murmurations constantly change direction, fly up a few hundred meters, then nearly crash to the ground. 

They look like swirling blobs, making teardrops, figure eights, columns & other shapes. 

These motions emerge from individual birds making real-time decisions based on the wing movements of their neighbours.

The compounding effect of innumerable decisions creates a mesmerizing display beyond comprehension of any single bird. 

Embedded in societies, humans make countless choices, incomprehensibly complex, leading to endless actions & reactions. 


This artwork employs optical illusions as an entry into an exploration of our perceptions.

Most of the time, the story our brains generate matches the real, physical world—but not always.

Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations.

Visual illusions present clear and interesting challenges for how we live: How do we know what’s real?

Once we know the extent of our brain’s limits, how do we live with humility & think with greater care about our perceptions?

The interesting illusions are when, even though we know reality, we consciously struggle to override the “wrong” interpretation.

The stories our brains tell us about reality are extremely compelling, even when they are wrong.

Your brain makes a lot of unconscious inferences, and it doesn’t tell you that it’s an inference.


Murmuration suggests that the basic processes governing optical illusions underscore our complicated perceptions & thoughts.

Our decisions are embedded in a larger societal context; our perceptions, often biased, are fabricated by our neural processes.

The best course of action? Move carefully, strive to be humble in the certainty of our conclusions & err on the side of kindness.


Cheryl & Michael are grateful to the Coast Salish people who have stewarded this land for time immemorial.


Murmuration, 2023, kinetic prints: screen printed aluminum disks, programmed motors, fluorescent paint, black light; screen printed panel, printed polycarbonate panel, programmed motor


Special thanks to JC Fung & Val Loewen for technical support


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