Boundary Work

Pigeon Blog (SF)

“… what is brought into existence are the relations by which
– pigeons transform men into talented pigeon fanciers and by which
the fanciers transform the pigeons into reliable racing pigeons.”
(Vinciane Despret quoted in Haraway)

The art activism project called “Pigeon-Blog” was a project by artist-researcher Beatriz da Costa with her students Cina Hazegh and Kevin Ponto (2005, Los Angeles). In this project, racing pigeons were used as collaborators, wearing sensors to measure environmental data, namely about air pollution, representing the data in real-time. Regarding the notion of “string figures” (or more generally: SF), the following elements seem crucial:

– strings: joining humans (artists, engineers, pigeon fanciers, actors of citizen-science), animals (racing pigeons) and (communication) technologies (or: “human, animal, and cyborg co-shapers”);

– string figures (understood in the sense of response-ability): pigeons calling diverse people into response-ability, as vice versa, and calling diverse people among them into response-ability;

– string figures (as a form of communication beyond language): collaboration based on action, performance and between actors with different linguistic abilities;

– string figures (aka speculative fabulation): as a means of story-telling, e.g. between different projects with pigeons (in the narrative of Haraway).

Focusing on the aspect of “response-ability”, the transformative potential in this coming-together gets obvious; this can be shown by the effects of the collaboration, but also by the critique which makes the (disciplinary) classifications palpable – and through this also modifiable:

– positionings of artistic and scientific practices come to the fore: a group of animal welfare people criticised the fact that the pigeons were “used” in an art context, whereas, for them, it would have been less problematic, if they were used in scientific-grounded experiments. Nevertheless: “Perhaps it is precisely in the realm of play, outside the dictates of teleology, settled categories, and function, that serious worldliness and recuperation become possible. That is surely the premise of SF.”

– different real-world actors tranformed their perspectives: kids moved from seeing pigeons as “rats with wings”, as dirty, unruly, out of place, not devoid of racist iconography, to sociable birds with lives and deaths; “the schoolchildren became response-able”. …


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