Stills, images, and video excerpts from Erotomania, which explores the elaborate courtship behaviour of bowerbirds in relation to the mechanics of display within image-making.

The male bowerbird builds ornate installations made up of a variety of found objects with reflective, iridescent, or colourful surfaces such as beetle shells, flower petals, berries, and misplaced car keys to attract the female. The more ordinary the bowerbird’s plumage, the showier their installations, and in contrast with other birds, they have little perceived value other than these separate visual displays.

The interplay between absurdity and display within human and animal behaviour is mirrored within the bravado of Julian Schnabel’s voice emanating from a gleaming golden bird’s skull, and the romanticism of the landscape backdrop contrasts with the exposed mechanics of the bird’s interaction.

In its use of computer-generated imagery, the layered construction of virtual images forms a linkage with Lacan’s theories on desire and the specular image. Within 3D rendering, images are built up in layers, and the specular layer is fundamental in selling the illusion of reality to the viewer, mirroring the illusoriness of the bowerbirds’ visual signalling.

In looking at the behavioural aspects of image making through a biological lens, the relationship between the romanticism of the image and its deconstruction emerges.