Columba Livia

video still 1

video still 4Columba Livia 2017
Sound by Leni Philippe-Janon
video 4.30mins

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 who lived below my studio residency in Paris. I’d occasionally find her scolding tenants for using a heavy granite rock as a doorstop to the apartment building, as she was concerned this would cause damage to the pavings beneath. She had deemed the pavings precious due to their antiquity, despite them having already been worn down and battered with centuries of activity. One morning, upon finding a baby pigeon that had fallen to its death on her patio, the same woman was evidently quite pleased, 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. Our distaste for and ensuing management of large pigeon populations leads one to recall the fate of the passenger pigeon, a wild pigeon species that once flourished in the millions before being brought to extinction by humans in the 19th century. 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 many 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