A Natural History of Nest Building

A Natural History of Nest Building is part of The Artangel Collection. Since its initial presentation at the Towner Art Gallery in the spring of 2018, it has been exhibited at Turner Contemporary in Margate, CAST in Cornwall and Inverleith House in Edinburgh.

A Natural History of Nest Building is part of The Artangel Collection

  • Artist: Andy Holden & Peter Holden
  • Title: A Natural History of Nest Building
  • Date: 2017
  • Medium: Three screen video installation with four channel audio on custom built screen wall
  • Dimensions: 3 x video projections, 1.7m x 1.275m - 4:3 aspect ratio
  • Duration: 31 minutes

The dialogue between father and son has its principal focus in a split-screen film where they give a brilliant two-headed lecture on nests, taking in, inter alia, the homicidal cuckoo... the massive airborne apartment blocks of the sociable weaver bird; and the mute swans that work together in pairs. For Andy, the swans’ nest measures the strength of their marriage. Knowledge from the father, poetry from the son: that seems to be the pattern. Except that Peter Holden opens your eyes to beauty too – to nests as exposed pockets, fragile cradles or invisible cities, as he refers to rookeries. — Laura Cumming, The Observer, 10 September 2017

A Natural History of Nest Building is a three-screen video installation in which father and son talk about different types of birds’ nests, nest sites and materials. Whilst they find common ground in their shared wonder at the ingenuity and skill of a wide variety of birds, from the chaffinch and the crow to tailorbirds and weavers, they sometimes diverge in what intrigues them most.

Peter’s approach is firmly grounded in Darwin’s theory of evolution and ‘natural selection’ (the title Darwin initially gave to the book eventually published as On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection) whereas Andy is absorbed by the idea that nest building is a considered, creative act. As they look at the extraordinary diversity of nests that birds build, their conversation touches on instinct and learning, the importance of creative collaboration and the nature of parental influence.

Image: Andy Holden, A Natural History of Nest Building', 2017, (detail) at Towner Art Gallery, 2018. Photograph: Pete Jones


at Inverleith House

Edinburgh, 28 September - 18 November 2018

'A Natural History of Nest Building' was shown in Scotland for the first time when Natural Selection was exhibited at Inverleith House situated in the Royal Botanic Gardens, in Edinburgh. 

Image: Image: Andy Holden, A Natural History of Nest Building, 2017 presented at Inverleith House, Edinburgh in 2018. Photograph: Michael Wolchover


at Groundwork

Helston, Cornwall, 01 – 23 September 2018

'A Natural History of Nest Building' was presented at Groundwork, a season of international art organised by CAST (The Cornubian Arts & Science Trust). Andy Holden opened the season, with a live performance of his acclaimed work 'Laws of Motion in a Cartoon Landscape' and closed it with a presentation of the films from Natural Selection and a selection of nests from his ongoing collection.

Image: Andy Holden, A Natural History of Nest Building, 2017 presented at CAST, Cornwall in 2018. Photograph: Courtesy of CAST


at Turner Contemporary

Margate, 25 May – 30 September 2018

 A Natural History of Nest Building was included in the 'Animals and Us' exhibition at Turner Contemporary alongside Holden's 'Bower (Untitled)'. 'Animals and Us' brought together artworks and artefacts from contemporary and 20th-century artists to explore and reflect upon the relationship between humans and other animals. Featuring work by artists such as Marcus Coates, Kiluanji Kia Henda, and Paula Rego.

Image: Installation view of Andy Holden, A Natural History of Nest Building, 2017 at 'Animals and Us', Turner Contemporary in 2018. Photograph: Stephen White

Previous Presentations

Since the launch of The Artangel Collection, A Natural History of Nest Building has been installed at