Columba Livia 2017
Sound by Leni Philippe-Janon
Once loved, now reviled, the common rock pigeon (Scientific name: Columba Livia) is a bird with a fascinating history that is deeply intertwined with our own. The work Columba Livia grew out of an encounter with a woman living below my studio residency in Paris. I’d occasionally find her scolding other tenants for using a heavy rock as a doorstop to the apartment building. Deemed precious due to their antiquity, she was concerned the pavings would be damaged by the rock, despite having already been worn down and battered with centuries of activity. In contrast, the same woman was evidently quite pleased when she found a baby pigeon that had fallen to its death on her patio one morning, sharing a commonly held belief that pigeons are filthy pests, spreaders of disease.
A little time spent observing and learning about Columba Livia though, and you might discover that they are quite complex and charming animals, with no documented cases of them ever actually transferring diseases to humans. The act of licking and sucking pigeon feathers collected from the streets of Paris plays into people’s fear of pigeon-spread disease, and brings attention to the othering and hierarchical categorisation of certain non-human animals. The discarded feathers are treated with a kind of admiration and tenderness, as they are carefully displayed in front of the lens, eventually blanketing the entire frame with their muted bluey greys. The imagery oscillates between the grotesque and the erotic, sex, love and care. An exaggerated action in loving Columba Livia, the common rock pigeon.
+Created as part of Shotgun6 – professional development program and exhibition awarded by MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), Detached Cultural Organisation and Contemporary Art Tasmania. Exhibited in Mock Sun, a solo show at Contemporary Art Tasmania 2017