Love me tender

Love me tender

An Essay on Pigeons No. 2 Performance
(with Patricia Röder)

Place:Piazza San Marco, Venice Date:15th Sept. 2007, 3:30 p.m. Duration:until 100 kg of cornmeal is fully devoured and disappears–50 minutes Action: A single person pours two 10 kg sacks of corn onto a designated spot of the Piazza San Marco, thereupon leaving the scene. From different directions another ten people move to the same spot and pour another 90 kg of corn onto the pile. They leave the site accordingly heading off in different directions.

Background information

The rise in tourism in Venice has an indirect correlation with an increase in the pigeon population. According to different estimations, Venice’s historic center is currently the habitat of between 40 000 and 120 000 pigeons. The pigeons themselves have long since become an attraction; their ritual feeding is an integral part of any tourist agenda just like a visit to the church San Marco. At the same time the pigeons embody a serious threat to the structural integrity of the churches, palaces and monuments. According to “ Nomisma Research Group’s” calculations, every Venetian citizen pays an annual average of 275 Euro for sanitation and repair costs caused by pigeon droppings and the birds’ other damage to the historical buildings.

Meanwhile, city management had already decided to place pigeon feeding on the Piazza San Marco under fine and prohibit the sale of pigeon food by the some 18 licensed vendors. However, the latter appealed in court due to the alleged loss of their only means of subsistence. Around 19 Venetian families live off of the three hundred kg worth of corn sold on a daily basis at the Piazza San Marco. The price of a single packet of corn weighing approximately 80 to 100g is 1 Euro.

Object of Examination

Besides the reciprocal financial effects, the question arises as to why feeding the pigeons has become such an attraction. Upon observation, the tourist kneeling with hands outstretched articulates in his posture and gestures the bearing of a beggar, whereas in this case he is not begging for money or food, but rather the attention (affection?) of the pigeons. To acquire this, the tourist must exchange his money for corn sold at an entirely inflated price rate (around 50 to 100 times more than on the wholesale market).

The Order of the Performance

In a state of euphoric shrieking, multifarious children and adults race towards the glowing pile of corn and begin to feed the multitude of pigeons forming a great ring around the heap and otherwise grab and stuff the meal into their pockets by the handfuls. The pile visibly dwindles. Many children run away from the pile again and again scattering the food, thereupon returning only to obtain more bait. The adults on the other hand usually only leave the pile after having ferreted out some of the free stock. Some of the children remain until indeed all of the meal kernels have disappeared, which takes about 50 minutes.

Several thousand doves and probably well over one hundred tourists took part in the performance.