We share our city with myriad animals, but few are as visible – and as reviled – as the Pigeon (a.k.a. Rock Dove, a.k.a. Columba livia). Pigeons are not always beautiful, are often clothed in tattered, oily feathers and missing toes, but they mirror our own urban lives in striking ways.
Watching flocks of pigeons navigating the sidewalk with aplomb or puffing up and strutting to impress a mate, it isn’t hard to imagine them as a sort of alternate urban universe, a reflection of how humans interact with and exist in the city around them. If the outer appearance of a pigeon often reflects the hardships of city living, its innards can also serve as a study in miniature of how various environmental factors might impact the human system.
Comparing anatomies, the insides of pigeons and humans are surprisingly similar. Barring some small alterations in shape and placement (and, of course, size), a human heart and pigeon heart appear to be twins. Scientific studies, for example Possible Relevance of Pigeons as an Indicator Species for Monitoring Air Pollution published in Environmental Health Perspectives (1997), have used pigeons as an indicator for how pollution effects the body and found visibly elevated levels of chemicals in the systems of pigeons exposed to higher levels of air pollution.
Pandora is a particularly cuddly version of our avian neighbours, and she is meant to act as an analogue for the human body. Through the study of her organs and guts, each with its own story to tell, her dissectors will hopefully relate to both her toy-like form and adorable felt/yarn insides and connect on a visceral level as she narrates the effects urban life has had on her body.
Project created by myself and Nicole Bryczkowski, pigeon and her guts made by me.