Collective Feeding

Robin Meier: Collective Feeding, 2019
Performance for 2 wind instruments, 2 megaphones, wild crows, rice, eggs. Duration ca. 20 minutes
Curated by Natasha Ginwala
Flute: Johan Peiris, Sax: Akeel V
Produced by Pro Helvetia and Colomboscope
Special thanks to Kaeli Swift for her advice

In 2014, Dutch authorities began to kill a small population of house crows (corvus splendens) near the Port of Rotterdam. The crows likely arrived from Sri Lanka around 1994 as stowaways on a commercial container boat. Apparently, international trade in a country is now understood to be the most reliable predictor of the number of introduced species found there. The house crows were all killed, except for one that found shelter in a Dutch apartment.

In January 2019, not far from Colombo Port City, we entered into contact with about 50 house crows. Every day at 5.30 pm, we performed a composition for two musicians, electronic sounds and crows. We fed rice balls and boiled eggs to the crows whilst playing the music on the roof of a cinema complex that was burned down during the 1983 Black July Riots.

Rapidly the birds learned to recognise this performance and waited for us every evening, cawing and flying in wild circles around us.

About 8 months later, on the roof of the Paris Art Lab, a motorised bird feeder starts spitting out grains as the same composition resonates from two metallic speakers. Like a mechanical psychopomp for birds, the machine calls out to the Colombo crows, temporarily modifying the habits and flight patterns for a flock of Parisian birds.

“I love the fact that human genomes can be found in only about 10 percent of all the cells that occupy the mundane space I call my body; the other 90 percent of the cells are filled with the genomes of bacteria, fungi, protists, and such, some of which play in a symphony necessary to my being alive at all, and some of which are hitching a ride and doing the rest of me, of us, no harm. I am vastly outnumbered by my tiny companions; better put, I become an adult human being in company with these tiny messmates. To be one is always to become with many.”

When Species Meet, Donna J. Haraway, 2007