The Birdpeople (2004): Block Museum - Northwestern University
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The Birdpeople (2004)

Four birdwatchers in park point their binoculars upward
Film still from "The Birdpeople" (2004)
7 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Wed February 16, 2022
7 PM


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public



(Michael Gitlin, 2004, 61 min, 16mm)


(Joyce Wieland, 1986, 10 min, 16mm)


[Narrator remarks to the birds] … “I watch you the way I used to watch movies. I remember you the way I used to remember movies.”

Michael Gitlin’s experimental essay film The Birdpeople indexes the North American social-cultural phenomena of birding with wry humor and elegiac attentiveness to humans and birds alike. Gitlin, himself an amateur birdwatcher, reflects on the position of birders behind their binoculars as he does on the filmmaker’s practice, pushing against the categories of nature documentary and ethnographic film and their impetus to capture and preserve. Instead, the archival strategy is turned back upon the birdwatchers. Creating an archive of its own, the film registers an array of people transfixed by birds, including a community of birders in Central Park of the early aughts, bird banders with their near-invisible nets, specimen collectors in dozens of natural history museums, and the passionate few still searching the Louisiana bayous for evidence of the lost ivory-billed woodpecker.

Presented with Joyce Wieland's short film, Birds at Sunrise (1986). Originally photographed in the early seventies, and edited in the mid-eighties on the occasion of a Hollis Frampton retrospective, Canadian experimental filmmaker Wieland captured birds "in their frozen world" from her window during the winter through spring.  


The films appear courtesy of Michael Gitlin and Light Cone.


Health and Saftey at the Block:

The Block Museum complies with local, state, and University guidelines related to the coronavirus pandemic for in-person public events and museum visitation. All visitors 5 years and older are required to have been fully vaccinated or have received a negative COVID test within 24 hours of visitation, as well as wear a mask to visit this location.  Participants unwilling or unable to abide by these requirements should not attend.

More information about these guidelines available at

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at