The graphic series Amateur Bird Watching at Passport Control (2016-17), by Alina Blumis  lends this show its title and explores the human relationship with freedom and nature. It is built around a paradox, revealed by Bliumis in her study of the passport covers of nations all over the world: that birds, the ultimate symbol of freedom, are used on documents controlling international movement. The Belarus-born New-York based artist Bliumis has worked with the themes of geopolitics, national borders, migration and nature throughout her career that spans more than ten years.

As old as the Bible, the written document allowing the crossing of borders and offering remote protection has been issued by those in power, those who were able to control the movements of people. The first of such known documents was by the Persian king Artaxerxes who issued a letter to the prophet Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:7-9) for travelling to Judea. Notably, the mission of the prophet was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Since then humankind has built and crossed walls with the aid of written or printed documents, issued by those entitled to control the movements of people.

This graphic series focuses on the birds – stamped in metallic gold on passport covers all over the world. Their use in hereditary symbols and coats of arms  evokes a series of attitudes, that Bliumis is tapping into. For example, the dominating use of Roman eagles chosen by the majority of states might reflect on expansionist ambitions or – post-colonial condition. The extinct bird Dodo might warn about ecology as well as doves and birds of paradise could refer to relationship between humans and nature that goes as deep as to the pre-historic times when the nation states did not yet exist.


Alina Bliumis is New York-based artist. Alina received her BFA from the School of Visual Art in 1999 and a diploma from the Advanced Course in Visual Arts in Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Como, Italy in 2005.

Her works are in various private and public collections, including the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (Russia), Museums of Bat Yam (Israel), the Saatchi Collection (UK), the Harvard Business School (US), the Museum of Immigration History, Paris (France) and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (UK).