Birds origin

The birds come from a breeding farm in Thetford Mines. The thirty-five females and thirty-five males were selected for their social natures, as they are neither fearful nor aggressive. Following the exhibition, the birds will be returned to their breeding farm.


This species of bird prefers to live in a group, and has no impulse to fly off on its own.

Daily care

The birds’ daily care (food, cleaning) is carried out each morning by animal-welfare technicians specialized in bird care and by members of the Museum’s team.


Once a week, a veterinarian comes to the Museum to verify that the birds are in good health and are being given the proper care.

The sound environment

The sound environment is generated by the birds when they land on the strings of the amplified guitars. This is not the case with the cymbals.

Rest period

A timer activates the lights in the morning and dims them in the evening, so that the birds can enjoy an optimal rest period. This timer is set to follow the sun’s regular diurnal cycle.

Tips and research

The MMFA consulted with a team from the Biodôme, as well as a number of ornithology researchers at McGill University, in order to ensure the birds’ well-being. The bird breeder is also a valuable resource for maintaining the good health of the performers.


Please do not touch the birds. If a bird happens to land on you, remain calm and avoid sudden movements.

November 25, 2015, to March 27, 2016

Contemporary Art Square
Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion – Level S2

In line with its ongoing policy of bringing the visual arts and music together, the Museum has invited French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot to present his living and ephemeral work, an organic installation specifically conceived for the spaces of the Contemporary Art Square, as transformed into a gigantic aviary.

An astounding sonic arrangement featuring songbirds and electric guitars, from here to ear consists of more than seventy zebra finches, enchanting little chaffinches from central Australia, “performing” in the Square. These tuneful and gregarious birds settle in groups on unusual perches: a dozen amplified electric guitars and basses ready to receive the finches, which, as they fly about on the strings, play pre-recorded rock, punk and heavy-metal chords. While the sounds they generate overlie their own songs, the composition of claws on electric guitars that they improvise is governed by the beating of the birds’ wings and by the movements of visitors as they walk around the gallery.

Organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, this immersive installation is the Canadian premiere for this French artist who represented his country in the 2015 Biennale in Venice.

After more than fifteen interpretations, the version presented at the Museum will be one of the largest ever.

The artist

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, born in Nice in 1961, lives and works in Sète, France. After serving as the composer for writer and director Pascal Rambert’s Side One Posthume Théâtre company from 1985 to 1994, the artist, a musician by training, began to give autonomous form to his music by executing installations. Since 1994, he has been working on combining visual arts and experimental music while making use of the codes of live entertainment. Starting from the most diverse situations or objects, he contrives to find their musical potential, conceiving systems that extend the idea of a musical score to the unorthodox configurations of materials and media he employs in order to generate, usually in live performance, forms of sound that he calls “living” music.

In the News

This exhibition is presented by Mondou and was produced with the support of the Service de Coopération et d’Action Culturelle of the Consulat Général de France à Québec, Air Canada and Pépinière Oka Fleurs. The project was made possible thanks to the generous support of the RBC Foundation and the MMFA Young Philanthropists’ Circle, proud to support the contemporary art programme of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.