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Johnston Foster, What the Flock?!

Overhead in Proof on Main is Johnston Foster’s 2012 site-specific installation What the Flock?!

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Dozens of near-life-size seagulls are flying or falling throughout the dining areas, the bar, and toward the front door windows, as if attempting escape. What cataclysm is occurring here? The artist says the piece is inspired by the urban myth that seagulls, who are known to scavenge indiscriminately for food, will explode in midair if they eat Alka-Seltzer—which several of these have done. And yet, Foster’s Flock is more alluring than alarming. Made from vinyl siding left over from a construction site, gutter metal, screws, and other simple, repurposed materials, the birds draw our attention to the natural world and to the potential of recycling. As gluttonous, self-destructive creatures, the seagulls reference the effects of unchecked, mass consumption; as a whimsical, provocative work made from found materials, What the Flock?! illustrates the potential of art to illuminate how we might better use our increasingly shared resources.