Talking Bird Shit w/ Bird Brains

February 2020 Bird Brains

Published in The Bridge and Tunnel Crowd, Vol. 1 No. 5.5

One of the first issues one is confronted with when opening up their workplace or home to a flock of budgies is whether or not to cage them. After one can’t find a way to justify caging them, the second issue, in conjunction with how to keep them safe, is what to do about their poop.

To be honest, their droppings are not so bad. For one, they’re small, odorless and (if they are eating well) fairly easy to pick up off surfaces. You could say budgie poo ain’t pigeon shit.

Trust me, I am writing to you currently from Venezia, where there are a lot of pigeons and heaps of pigeon shit around. I am here for ten days to complete a workshop in performance art at the European Cultural Centre. The workshop is focused on cultivating dissent through art. Our group is an international hodgepodge of working artists. The tutors are considered renowned. We are here to define to what we object, and how to both empower our dissenting voice while honing movements and image-making so as to most thoroughly inhabit our resistance.

One morning I was wandering, and I happened upon the church of Santa Maria Assunta. Its tall, double-tiered, white columned façade is embellished with gargantuan relief sculptures of the twelve apostles. While surveying its scene, a cooing slipped into the soundscape. I discovered Matthew the Evangelist guarding the entrance’s right side, and guarding Matthew’s left shoulder was an unremarkable, fat, grey pigeon. Material clusters indicating two nests tucked on a ridge high above then came into view. But jarring was the sight below Matthew. Layers over layers of bird shit were draping over the apostle’s giant feet and caked over the inlet beneath him. Black, white and brown, built up, dripping and splattered, the self-evident, allover materiality could surpass any action painting across town in the Peggy Guggenheim vault and seduced me stronger than any little storefront of pasticcini ever could.

Because it was Mark Dion’s Library for the Birds of [insert rich art market city here], but real. Here were the birds of a place, crowded out and clustered in due to that place, managing. Eating, burrowing, cleaning, kin-making, lovemaking maybe, and certainly crapping the fuck all over wherever they chose, even the sacrosanct factors of the narratives written without them, of the machines tuned toward their likely demise.

Truly this unceasing, unwitting (but I want to think they do know) protest is transfigured worship. The result: an effortless, unconfused cry of life. A flash of how fucked up everything is, but how beautiful they are. This shit rattles my gears. It shakes—gums—this machine. It is pure dissent I can never reach, only train to see and remember.  

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