Site specific work Sound walks Wildlife

Don’t shoot the messenger

9 April 2010

The pigeon is probably one of the most common birds seen as an unwelcome visitor within the heart of the city.  The pigeon is a sociable bird, roosting in groups on the edge of buildings, making unstable nests in nearby trees and buildings.  It would seem that the role of the pigeon is now redundant, when compared to the historic role and identity it held as a symbol of gods and goddesses, messengers, pets, sport, food and even as a war hero.

Most of us are unaware that pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet with pigeons being able to undertake tasks previously thought to be the sole preserve of humans and primates.  The pigeon has also been found to pass the ‘mirror test’ (being able to recognise its reflection in a mirror).  A 10- year study carried out by Oxford University concluded that pigeons use roads and freeways to navigate, in some cases even changing direction at freeway junctions.

Don’t Shoot the Messenger statement (for a sound walk)

To produce a site specific, downloadable binaural audio sound walk, inspired by the adaptation of one of the most common ‘city birds’- the feral pigeon. ‘City birds’ is the terminology given to species, always ready to exploit a potential food source or a suitable nesting site. The walk will take the form of a tour guide based on the exploration of public space, including spaces where pigeons nest and roost. The walk will address the notion of the pigeon as vermin and celebrate the important roles throughout history.

The soundscape will be constructed (via in-ear microphones), using layers of recordings including ambient sounds of the city, with directional instructions and a narrative. Visual aids (reverse graffiti or high tack waterproof vinyl’s) will accompany the soundscape, to enable the listener to re-trace my footsteps. Using theories of psychogeography, the narrative will explore my own experience of the city as well as local residents and commuters and the notion of a pigeon’s perspective looking down onto the city.

The soundscape will engage residents of the city, including the bird watching community within the East Midlands, (of which I am a member of several groups) to build an accurate representation of the birds living within the city. It will also raise awareness of the cultural and historical references of the surrounding environment, using precise three- dimensional sound to create an experience of physical immediacy and complexity, offering the listener a multitude of sensations, leaving them unable to distinguish between what is ‘live’ sound and what is recorded. This method of immersion means that I am able to take pedestrians off their predictable paths, giving them a new awareness of their surroundings.

Pigeons at the canal in Leicester
Pigeons at the canal in Leicester
Pigeons in town square in Leicester
Pigeons in town square in Leicester
Roosting spikes on building in town centre, Leicester
Pets at Home store with a feral pigeon cheekily nicking some bird feed
Pets at Home store with a feral pigeon cheekily nicking some bird feed

Lucy Stevens’ artistic practice examines the acoustic ecology of the natural environment, using field recording, digital illustration, performance and printmaking as a tool to visualise sound produced by wildlife, weather and other natural phenomena.

4 comments on “Don’t shoot the messenger

  1. Pigeons have inhabited earth for more than 20 million years but now pigeons are known for troubling humans….and every one now is looking for some good and effective techniques to get rid of them..

  2. Pingback: Bread suit « Lucy Stevens Binaural audio projects

  3. Pingback: Bread suit « Lucy Stevens Binaural audio projects

  4. Hey, wonderful blog you have here! Keep up the good work

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