Eat Words | Lydia Burggraaf

Eat Words is a collaborative project with Amanda Marya White. Over the winter months of 2011 we investigated the tenuous relationship between the unprecedented crow population and the local human residents in Chatham-Kent, ON. Initially, our collaborative research explored the now-extinct passenger pigeon. We were drawn to the visual similarities between passenger pigeons reported to have “blackened the sky” with their numbers and the local crow population. Retrospectively understanding the devastating damage human intervention afflicted on the passenger pigeon informs how we engage with this pestilent bird population.

We enlisted the assistance of Lydia’s family to train a murder of crows to forage daily in the field adjacent to the family home that became our field base for the project. On particular days, we modify the food patterns into words in an attempt to formulate a conversation between the human and crow populations. We specifically choose to stencil out niceties, those words we employ in maintaining civilized relationships. To date, we have video recorded “THANKS.” “PLEASE?” and “SORRY!” The videos chronicle the unsettled eating of the crows as they negotiate the food and letters with the ever present human population monitoring them. Our anthropocentric conception of “crow-ness” is complicated by the soothing quality of the video; this duality is reinforced by the split screen which represents both our intentions with the project and the actual realization when working with wild animals.

© JoAnna 2015