Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"Very impressive, but no one is watching."

It was purely an accident (and in no way related to the untimely death of our chickens, I swear) that my wife and daughter and I ended up watching a documentary about birds tonight. It featured, in particular, the Birds of Paradise, of Papua New Guinea. If you've never seen these critters in action, they are singularly fascinating:

My question: is what the birds do as part of their mating ritual art? Especially once you take it out of its original context, and enclose it in a frame (such as the one provided so graphically by the YouTube interface)?

If it is art, who is the author? (Note that you're not allowed to answer "god," as that would be too trite for my purposes here.) Also, is the work any good?

I'm completely serious, of course.

[photo credit: Zorilla]


Vikram Devasthali said...

1. Is it art?

2. Who is the author?
The bird.

3. Is it any good?
He didn't get the girl.

Dan said...

What's the name of the documentary?

If it's not Winged Migration, you should check it out. Another great bird-centric doc. Absolutely hypnotizing.

Sarah Who now has Rats because of your chickens said...

Are you stoned? Or how stoned are you? Or are you just so excited your chickens are dead?

godoggo said...

OK, the obvious reaction would be what Sarah W.n.h.R.b.o.y.c. said, but... I'm thinking, over the world, in every culture, members of our species sing, dance, draw pictures, including the so-called. It seems to be universal, which is to say it's clearly coming from instinct, like the birdies...except, of course, that their dances are identical, since they're acting purely on instinct (however that developed...), but what about Frostie the cockatoo, whom I linked to in your chicken post? I've read that scientists say he's uniquely talented - apparently no other birds can dance like him. And he sure looks to me like he's doing some creative improvisation. So I don't know either.

godoggo said...

Huh, I'd gotten a message saying there was an error. Surprised to see my comment there...anyway, "so-called" should be followed by the "the words "primitive ones." Probably should also drop the definite article and stick the phrase closer to the antecedent.

godoggo said...

...and one more self-correction. Apparently my memory is faulty. "Some birds even appear to have more dancing talent than others. The disco king of both studies, published in Current Biology is Snowball, a sulfur-crested cockatoo."

Andrew Durkin... said...

Ha! Thanks everyone.

For me, it's the frame that makes it art, because the bird's intentions are impossible to discern from the outside looking in. (If birds even have intentions.)

The issue of whether it's "good art" is an open one for me -- but I find I could watch this stuff a lot.

The documentary we originally saw was David Attenborrough's BBC series -- though I've seen Winged Migration and, like Dan, I highly recommend it. (Not sure what this YouTube clip is from, though.)

I love the idea that the sulfur-crested cockatoo is the "disco king."

And alas, no drugs were consumed in the writing of this post. (Unless you count caffeine.)