John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It's like a bird mated with a rainbow.
The pigeon hordes of Venice might be a delight to world travelers, who allow the vacuous-faced birds to perch on their arms and shoulders as if they were living roost trees.
But to many locals, no doubt the bird swarms have become tiresome, something to be avoided when crossing a public square or cursed at in the event of a sneaky airborne poo-bombing.
So how can we make the pigeons of Venice interesting again to Venetians? That's simple: Give them a fresh coat of paint!
Artists Julian Charrière and Julius von Bismarck did just that for their piece in this year's Biennale, "Some Pigeons Are More Equal Than Others." While some people might cry out over the supposed cruelty of hunting down pigeons, locking them in a vaguely scary-sounding "apparatus," and spray-painting them to look like carnival clowns, have you ever tried it? It certainly sounds more fun than puttering around in a vaporetto or gondola just like millions of other tourists.
The pigeon project is in Phase 2, with Berlin's Charrière and, uh, European Organization for Nuclear Research-based von Bismarck (he's the guy who likes to bullwhip mountains) already having beautified a few lucky birds in Copenhagen. How did they accomplish this? You'll never guess. FYI, I cleaned up this slice of Charrière's copy a bit:
The project is about dyeing 35 pigeons in the city of Copenhagen. A "pigeon apparatus" was built with this purpose. The machine works as a bird trap with a conveyor-belt mechanism. Once inside the machine the pigeons get automatically airbrushed in different colors. The machine was installed for a week on a roof in Copenhagen.
Brilliant. Now we just need to add glitter to the squirrels, and our cities will be fabulous.
(Photos courtesy of the artists via Designboom's user-submission forums.)