David Shrigley

Lost : color photograph : David Shrigley : 1996

While David Shrigley's work does not all deal with environmental concerns, this piece did bring something up that really bothers/interests me, so I decided to post it. (Also, this piece is hilarious.)

I have been thinking for a long time about how animals like pigeons and rats get such a bum rap in our cities --- as opposed to the cherished position we give to pets. Really pigeons are one of the few species that have "made it" and been able to adapt to survive in the environment that we have created when we destroyed their former habitats. Pigeons are a species known as the Rock Dove. That sounds nice right? They used to live on cliffs and rocky ledges and didn't eat garbage or old KFC before we were around. Some bird guides still call them the Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon, though others have changed the designation to "Common Pigeon."

One interesting thing, is that pigeons are in fact feral animals, domesticated by humans several thousand years ago and now existing as a semi-wild populations in urban areas world-wide.
(For those of you knowledgeable about how domestication generally affects species' appearances, this will explain the piebald coloration that many pigeons have.) We changed their behavior to tolerate our presence and be dependent on us for food --- then when they try to live side by side with us in the only way they know how, we call them "rats of the sky" and kick them. Not cool humans, not cool.

(I also feel this way about dandelions. The idea of a "weed" is just bizarre to me. Plus dandelions are so pretty. Why would you not like a lawn dotted with lovely yellow blossoms --- with edible leaves and flowers that can be made into a very nice wine to boot?)

I hope David doesn't mind me contextualizing his work in this way. I am not convinced that these pieces are necessarily intended to make environmentalist statements, but I figure they are open to interpretation. More David's witty and excellent photographs --- and other works can be seen at

River For Sale : color photograph : David Shrigley : 1999

Stump : color photograph : David Shrigley : 1999


Molly Schafer said...

Wow. Weird. I just came up with a (secret)thesis the other day. My train of thought that lead to it went from feral to the odd idea of "weeds" as well. rather uncanny. we'll have to discuss.

Jenny Kendler said...

Must be all the pollen in the air...

Hungry Hyaena said...

A belated reply, this...but a reply all the same.

I grew up in rural Virginia, where pigeons are considered "game birds." In fact, many local hunters - my family included - cherished pigeon meat as much as they do dove, quail, duck or deer.

It wasn't until I moved to the city that I heard people describe Columba livia with derision. Although European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are my favorite trophic generalist, pigeons are a welcome sight in my mind, even if they occasionally hit a friend (or me) in the head.

Crafty Green Poet said...

there are still wild rock doves in remote coastal parts of the UK.

I agree with what you say, though, pigeons and dandelions are successful and thus derided. Interesting comment on our psychology

Matto said...

As I left my bakery this morning I noticed an inquisitive little pigeon just outside. I thought to myself "He knows where he wants to go". And with a rather cosmopolitan swagger he just strolled right in.
Turned my sour morning right around.

Matto said...

As I left my local bakery this morning with my bagel, I noticed an inquisitive little fellow loitering just outside the door. I thought, "he knows where he wants to go".
And without the slightest whiff of urgency the plucky little bugger strolled right in.