REVEAL FLIGHT – Make the invisible visible – Ornithographies by Xavi Bou
The flight of migratory birds is a fascinating phenomenon. UCLouvain bioengineers have teamed up with Catalan photographer Xavier Bou to try to unravel its mysteries…
The aerial performance of some birds is disconcerting: the Red Godwit’s migratory route connects Alaska to New Zealand, i.e. nearly 12,000 km traveled without leaving the sky and without ingesting food! This can only be done by interacting optimally with the medium in which this bird evolves, namely the air. Aeronautical engineers have long studied the complex phenomena that govern the interaction between solids, such as wings, and a fluid, such as air. But the existing tools are not very appropriate for the particular dynamics of flight with flapping wings.
The “Reveal Flight” project brings together around ten researchers from UCLouvain and aims to develop digital tools to better understand the flight of birds, at individual and collective levels. At the individual level, flight requires a coordinated movement of all the joints of the wings, in order to lean on the air without being slowed down too much by it. At the collective level, the signature left in the air by the individuals at the head of the flight – called the drag – can be ideally exploited by those following to reduce their effort deployed in flight. The tools developed by UCLouvain researchers make it possible to account for and understand these phenomena.
Driven by the wonder at the heart of their “Reveal Flight” project, the team of researchers made contact with Barcelona photographer Xavi Bou. Like the research project, his artistic project aims to make visible the invisible of the flight of birds. His “ornithographies” indeed make it possible to perceive in a single photo the entire temporality of the trajectory of one or more birds. The resulting “avian filaments” make it possible to directly appreciate the richness of the movement of the wings, and therefore to inspire fundamental research. Through the development of digital tools to “increase” the dimensions of a flight simulation or photograph, this collaboration between scientists and artists has enriched the perception of this fascinating natural phenomenon.
This exhibition presents the artistic work of Xavi Bou as well as the progress of this research-creation project.

This project located at the crossroads of arts and sciences is supported by the UCLouvain research-creation fund. He is supervised by Pr Renaud Ronsse and his team.

  • Name of the exhibition REVEAL FLIGHT
  • Nationality spanish
  • Exhibition site St-Joseph church