The birds


[Image: Keith Kin Yan/Overshadowed].

While researching my post for Inhabitat – on light pollution and other forms of photonic trespass – I came across this account of the Tribute in Light, those blazing towers of floodlit clouds and sky used by Manhattan to memorialize the fallen World Trade Center: "The beams were visibly filled with birds for their entire height, looking like clouds of bugs. Their twittering was audible. There were so many birds, it was impossible to track any one individual for any length of time. I did see one bird that circled in and out of the uptown beam six times before I lost track."
The birds, in other words, had been fatally mesmerized, often spiraling thereafter to the ground – or into the windows of nearby buildings. A kind of bird-tornado.


[Image: Keith Kin Yan/Overshadowed].

This circular disorientation of birds – winged animals thrown athwart by the optical effects of architecture – also makes an appearance in W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz. Here, the narrator recounts a friend's visit to the new Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris: "The four glazed towers themselves, named in a manner reminiscent of a futuristic novel... make a positively Babylonian impression on anyone who looks up at their facades and wonders about the still largely empty space behind their closed blinds. (...) And several times, said Austerlitz, birds which had lost their way in the library forest flew into the mirror images of the trees in the reading-room windows, struck the glass with a dull thud, and fell lifeless to the ground."
Other species, killed by the mirrored archives of national history.
None of which is meant to imply that I didn't enjoy the Tribute in Light – without it, in fact, I would not have eaten roast pigeon for three weeks...
In any case, perhaps this could serve as a new form of avian predation, a duck-hunter's paradise: you build a well-lit public memorial – then throw open some nets.
Conversely, of course, the birds might obliterate the city. Hitchcock's revenge. I'm reminded of the beautifully descriptive title of an old (and fairly awful) song by Coil: Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East and Destroy Paris in a Night.
Against whose murderous flocks Paris deploys a mirrored library...

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Blogger Bevan said...

From a lot of reading on the paranormal I did along time ago, I recall that "Red birds will fly out of the east and destroy Paris in a night" is a translation of one of the prophecies of Nostradamus. Don't know if it had a predicted date attached to it, but it doesn't seem to have happened yet...

Great blog, by the way. Got here by way of Strange Maps (I think).

October 11, 2007 4:06 PM  

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