12 Feb 2016

Making grounds for the humble pigeon

From New Zealand Society, 3:30 pm on 12 February 2016
The local inhabitants of Pigeon Park, Wellington

The local inhabitants of Pigeon Park, Wellington Photo: Sonia Sly

You’re sitting in the sun on your lunch-break and suddenly you’re surrounded by pigeons eyeing up your ham sandwich or waiting for the pastry to flake from your hot chicken pie.  You decide to throw a crust in the direction of a tiny sparrow, when half a dozen pigeons bustle their way towards the piece of left-over crust.

Whether you love them or loathe them, there are around 400 million pigeons worldwide in what appears to be a growing population and they have made their homes in and around our urban centres. The question is, do we want them here?

“Councils all over the world have had to deal with pigeon management issues, but research shows that when pigeons are culled they often bounce back really quickly,” says Kedron Parker, co-creator of ‘Hello Pigeons' -  a show that will make its debut at the New Zealand Fringe Festival later this month.

Members of the audience will have an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the experience of holding a pigeon, and later, letting it go.

“Hello Pigeons is about taking a second look at how we see wildlife in the city [and] we’re not so much performing for the people who are coming, but rather, they are co-investigators,” Parker says.

Adam Ben-Dror and Kedron Parker, the artists behind Hello Pigeons

Adam Ben-Dror and Kedron Parker, the artists behind Hello Pigeons Photo: Sonia Sly

Parker is working alongside Auckland based artist Adam Ben-Dror who has held a long-time fascination with the humble pigeon.

“The first work I did with pigeons was a short guide to human pigeon relations called, ‘More like us, more like them,’" he says.

“It showed people how to see pigeons as being more human: pigeons walk rather than hop; they also home [and] they have a loyalty to their mate, they’re [also] observant. Pigeons have been trained to tell the difference between Picasso paintings and Monets’ and they can tell people apart,” Ben-Dror says.

Over the past five months the pair have been familiarising themselves with the homing pigeons that they will be using for the show, owned by breeder, Peter Hill who is based out in Paraparaumu.

Ten to 30 pigeons will be used  per day and each audience member will have a chance to book their own pigeon to hold during the show, situated on Wellington’s waterfront.  

Parker says she was conflicted about pigeons, but through the process of research, which began last July, her feelings have changed. 
“When I hold the pigeons, they tug at my heart strings and it has made me see our public spaces in a different way.”

“We’re trying to explore those feelings about the pigeons, to share facts about the birds, and also acknowledge the fact that wild life in the city has co-evolved over thousands of years [and that] these animals are here because we brought them here.”

Hello Pigeons is a free event and runs from 29 February- 6 March on the Wellington waterfront. To book your pigeon or to find out more, head to Hello Pigeons on Facebook.