Open Letters – “Brekekekéx koáx koáx!” by Georgie Brinkman

Page Not Found presents the third chapter of the Open Letters project, which invites The Hague artists to occupy the large storefront of Page Not Found with messages of urgency and vulnerability. Following an open call, the selected works are ‘published’ in a series of window displays using vinyl lettering. The series gives artists room to publicly reflect on current times, with works given to an audience of passersby of the lively Boekhorststraat.

In the first months of the pandemic Georgie Brinkman (as part of duo ZOOX) was due to stage a newly commissioned performance work in a rural area of the UK through More Than Ponies. Inevitably, this had to be reconfigured from a site-specific, community choir performance to a digital form: a solo performer via Facebook live. This iteration of the work contemplates what happens to its meaning when it is disconnected from its original site. How can these words resonate with the larger, global notions of loss, vulnerability and change we are currently experiencing?

‘Brekekekéx koáx koáx!’ is a song that acts as a futile, ritualistic attempt to resurrect an extinct (in the British wild) species. The last known colony of the Common Tree Frog (Hyla Arborea) in the British wild lived in Hilltop Pond, Dorset. In 1988 the last male was found far away from the pond calling a lonely ‘Brekekekéx koáx koáx!’ for a non-existent female. Using astrological predictions for 1988 as an attempt to retroactively foresee the extinction, this new, ritual song rewrites the lyrics of the oldest surviving secular love song in the English language, ‘Bryd one Brere’. The piece borrows its name from the Ancient Greek comedy ‘The Frogs’. During a choral interlude, the onomatopoeic cry of ‘Brekekekéx koáx koáx!’ marks the only time that the titular frogs are heard. They exist only to annoy the protagonist, who tries his best to eliminate their sound. He eventually manages to silence them with a monstrous fart.

Georgie Brinkman is an artist and researcher whose work treads a precarious ground between science-fiction and science-fact (and the muddy sludge in between), to ask what it means to be human in the age of extinction. By casting other-than-humans as leading protagonists in her films, writing and installations she seeks to pull apart the anthropocentric perception of a division between nature and culture. Georgie recently graduated from MA Artistic Research at The Royal Academy, The Hague. Alongside her practice she founded an artist residency, The New Flesh, to support early career artists who work at the intersection of costume and moving image.

Image caption:

Illustration of a singing frog, drawn from ‘Rupert and The Frog Song’ (1984), written by Paul McCartney. Here, Rupert the Bear witnesses a frog chorus. that occurs only once every few hundred years.

“Brekekekéx koáx koáx!” is on view from August 9, 2021 through September 9, 2021. The exhibition is visible any time from the street.