Beatriz da Costa-Pigeon Blog

Sourced from

Pigeonblog was a collaborative endeavor between homing pigeons, artists, engineers and pigeon fanciers engaged in a grassroots scientific data gathering initiative designed to collect and distribute information about air quality conditions to the general public. Pigeons carried custom-built miniature air pollution sensing devices enabled to send the collected localized information to an online server without delay. Pollution levels were visualized and plotted in real-time over Google’s mapping environment, thus allowing immediate access to the collected information to anyone with connection to the Internet.

Pigeonblog was an attempt to combine DIY electronics development with a grassroots scientific data gathering initiative, while simultaneously investigating the potentials of interspecies co-production in the pursuit of resistant action. How could animals help us in raising awareness to social injustice? Could their ability in performing tasks and activities that humans simply can’t be exploited in this manner, while maintaining a respectful relationship with the animals?

Pigeonblog was developed and implemented in the southern California region, which ranks among the top-ten most polluted regions in the country. Pigeonblog’s aim was 1) to re-invoke urgency around a topic that has serious health consequences, but lacks public action and commitment to change; 2) to broaden the notion of a citizen science while building bridges between scientific research agendas and activist oriented citizen concerns; and 3) to develop mutually positive work and play practices between situated human beings and other animals in technoscientific worlds.

When thinking of pigeons, people tend to think of the many species found in urban environments. Often referred to as “flying rats,” these birds and their impressive ability to adapt to urban landscapes isn’t always seen in a favorable light by their human co-habitants. At least by association then, PigeonBlog attempted to start a discussion about possible new forms of co-habitation in our changing urban ecologies and made visible an already existing world of human-pigeon interaction. At a time where species boundaries are being actively reconstructed on the molecular level, a re-investigation of human to non-human animal relationships is necessary.

Pigeonblog was inspired by a famous photograph of a pigeon carrying a camera around its neck taken at the turn of the twentieth century. This technology, developed by the German engineer Julius Neubronner for military applications, allowed photographs to be taken by pigeons while in flight. A small camera was set on a mechanical timer to take pictures periodically as pigeons flew over regions of interest, Currently on display in the Deutsche Museum in Munich, these cameras were functional, but never served their intended purpose of assisted spy technology during wartime. Nevertheless, this early example of using living animals as participants in early surveillance technology systems provoked the following questions: What would the twenty-first century version of this combination look like? What types of civilian and activist applications could it be used for?

Facilities emitting hazardous air pollutants are frequently sited in, or routed through, low-income and “minority” dominated neighborhoods, thereby putting the burden of related health and work problems on already disadvantaged sectors of the population who have the least means and legal recourse (particularly in the case of non-citizens) to defend themselves against this practice. Recent studies also revealed that air pollution levels in the Los Angeles and Riverside counties region are of high enough magnitude to directly affect children’s health and development.

With homing pigeons serving as the “reporters” of current air pollution levels, Pigeonblog attempted to create a spectacle provocative enough to spark people’s imagination and interests in the types of action that could be taken in order to reverse this situation. Activists’ pursuits can often have a normalizing effect rather than one that inspires social change. Circulating information on “how bad things are” can easily be lost in our daily information overload. It seems that artists are in the perfect position to invent new ways in which information is conveyed and participation inspired. The pigeons became my communicative objects in this project and “collaborators” in the co-production of knowledge.

Full Pigeonblog statement: pigeonstatement


Beatriz da Costa (June 11, 1974 – December 27, 2012) was an interdisciplinary artist known for her work at the intersection of contemporary art, science, engineering, and politics. Her projects took the form of public interventions and workshops, conceptual tool building, and critical writing

Beatriz da Costa was a co-founder with Jaime Schulte and Brooke Singer of Preemptive Media,[4] and a former collaborator of Critical Art Ensemble (CAE).[5] She also created work on her own, with a special interest in the intersections of art, science, engineering, and politics. Da Costa’s artwork took whatever form served it best, including robotics, micro-electronics, installation, sculpture, performance, interactivity, net art, photography, and video. She experimented with the use of biological materials and organisms in her artistic interventions and was intent on using these interspecies projects to promote the responsible use of natural resources and environmental sustainability. Da Costa and her collaborators frequently engaged the public by running workshops that translated challenging new technical and scientific developments into something accessible to a more general public.

Some of her better-known projects include SwipeZapped, and Air (Preemptive Media); Molecular InvasionFree Range GrainsGenTerra (CAE), and Pigeonblog.[3] Da Costa exhibited at venues including dOCUMENTA (13),[6] Eyebeam (New York),[7] the Andy Warhol Museum, the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Sevilla (Spain), the Zentrum für Kunst und Medien (Germany), the Museum of Contemporary Art, (Serbia), Exit Art Gallery (New York), Cornerhouse (Manchester, UK), A Foundation (London, UK), Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts (Montreal), John Hansard Gallery (Southampton, UK, and the Natural History Museum, London.

Writing was also an important part of her practice, and she co-edited the 2008 MIT Press anthology Tactical Biopolitics: Art, Activism, and Technoscience with UC Irvine professor of history Kavita Philip.[8] 

Da Costa continued to work up until her death, producing a range of projects addressing her cancer and advocating an “‘alternative’ approach to healing” through healthy and preventative eating.[9] Her late works include “The Cost of Life,” a Creative Capital-supported project,[3] The Endangered Species Finder and Memorial for the Still Living (commissioned by Arts Catalyst, London), The Life Garden and Dying for the Other (with Eyebeam Art and Technology Center,[9] New York), and The Delicious Apothecary“The Anti-Cancer Survival Kit”, part of The Cost of Life, was funded in part through a Rockethub campaign.[10]

In September 2012, Da Costa contributed to dOCUMENTA (13)‘s “The Worldly House,” a collaborative piece recognizing the work of Donna Haraway.

Arne Svenson

sourced from


With Arne Svenson’s series, Neighbors, he has turned outward from his usual studio based practice to study the daily activities of his downtown Manhattan neighbors as seen through his windows into theirs. Svenson has always combined a highly developed aesthetic sense viewed from the perspective of social anthropology in his eclectic projects with subjects ranging from prisoners to sock monkeys. His projects are almost always instigated by an external or random experience which brings new objects or equipment into his life- in this case he inherited a bird watching telephoto lens from a friend.

“The grid structure of the windows frame the quotidian activities of the neighbors, forming images which are puzzling, endearing, theatrical and often seem to mimic art history, from Delacroix to Vermeer. The Neighbors is social documentation in a very rarified environment. The large color prints have been cropped to various orientations and sizes to condense and focus the action.


The Workers is a conceptual and thematic extension and bookend to The Neighbors, though Svenson is no longer shooting from his studio, but is out in the world recording details of people engaged in manual labor. The same techniques and palette have been applied as The Neighbors, but unlike the private lives and leisure time spent in the interiors of luxury apartments, here Svenson seeks to examine the nuances of another form of human activity- manual toil with tools and machines. He continues to photograph through windows, but here refines his images with an almost microscopic scrutiny of individuals focused on careful work. Whereas in The Neighbors we see people napping, dining or staring at their digital devices, here we see hands, elbows, backs and shoulders in evident concentration on a physical activity.

Svenson uses an oval as the framing format to signify a window without referring to traditional rectangular shapes, and alludes to the convention used in Old Masters portraiture that designates status. Svenson describes the imagery as a “Narrative of eloquence in the face of brittle conditions, of the beauty and delicacy of a hand in motion hovering over a machine that could tear that hand apart.”

The Yes Men


“On December 3, 2004, the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, Andy Bichlbaum appeared on BBC Worldas “Jude Finisterra”,[12] a Dow Chemical spokesman.[13] Dow is the owner of Union Carbide, the company responsible for the chemical disaster in Bhopal, India on December 3, 1984. An estimated 3,800 people died immediately from the hazardous chemicals and thousands more were killed by the plume from the UCC plant during the next few days.[14] The Indian government reported that more than half a million people were exposed to the gas, leading to numerous early and late health defects.[15] The Bhopal Disaster became one of the worst chemical disasters in history and the name Bhopal became synonymous with industrial catastrophe.[16] Immediately after the disaster, UCC began attempts to dissociate itself from responsibility for the gas leak.[14] The Indian Supreme Court eventually mediated a settlement in which UCC accepted moral responsibility and agreed to pay $470 million to the Indian government to be distributed to claimants as a full and final settlement. The average amount to families of the dead was $2,200.[17]” – Wikipedia


The Yes Men (along with the Anti-Advertising Agency) claimed partial responsibility for a prank on November 12, 2008, where approximately 80,000 copies of a fake edition of the July 4, 2009 edition of The New York Times were handed out on the streets of New York and Los Angeles.  The fake edition shows their ideas for a better future with headlines such as Iraq War Ends and Nation Sets Its Sights on Building Sane Economy. They also created a fake website,

Laura Poitras

Her NSA reporting has been published in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Der Spiegel, The Intercept, and shared in the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. 


Trailer for CITIZENFOUR  “a real-life international thriller that unfolds minute-by-minute. With unprecedented access, this behind-the-scenes chronicle follows director Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s encounters with Edward Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room as he hands over classified documents that provide evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency.

CITIZENFOUR places viewers in the hotel room with Poitras, Greenwald and Snowden as they attempt to manage the media storm raging outside, forced to make quick decisions that will affect their lives and all around them.”


Sophie Calle

The Hotel, Room 47 1981 Sophie Calle born 1953 Presented by the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1999

The Detective (1981)

“In April 1981, a detective followed the French artist Sophie Calle through the streets of Paris for one day. Hired by her mother at the artist’s request, the detective logged her movements and photographed her activities as she, without his knowledge, recorded her experience of being watched. She later exhibited the reports side-by-side in her piece “La Filature” (“The Shadow,” 1981), which highlights Calle’s method of working over three decades. Staging provocations resembling seduction, documenting them with snapshot photography and a forensic first-person point of view, she crosses the thresholds of voyeur and exhibitionist, public and private, conceptual control and chance.”-Nicole Miller for Hyperallergic read full article here:

Following Sophie Calle


Reading on Sophie Calle’s Detective Sophie Calle_The Detective


Collective resources

The following are resources and suggestions made in class (mainly cut and pasted from peer responses to generative questions):

On Sensation:

Juhani Pallasmaa The Eyes of The Skin: Architecture and the Senses, John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 2012 talks about the ethics behind surveillance as art and uses Vito Acconci and Andy Warhol as examples

Performers rights information:  and an artist’s performance being recreated and issues surrounding that

4. surveying each other is instinctual for animals and humans and has to do with the idea of a herd mentality: – a great resource on surveillance as a whole.

essay published in the LA times which discusses how technology has changed the perception and creation of artwork:

Photography in Public Places and the Privacy of the Individual by Elspeth Knewstubb –

Joseph Nechvatal focuses on what he calls the “viractual”, or the merging of the computed with the uncomputed corporeal. He digitizes his paintings, and then has algorithm based computer viruses “attack” the digitized painting:

“The Watchers: Assaults on Privacy in America”

The ethics of street photography – 

Self protection while protesting: 

This National Geographic article talks about how museums actually do own many stolen artifacts: has more examples of the Met’s “Ill gotten gains”

Klein was famous for his use of women’s bodies in his art/to make his art. Here is one perspective of a woman who enjoyed her experience and felt like a collaborator, not an object:

On the other hand, many people see his work as the ultimate portrayal of women through the exclusively male gaze, because their movements were being dictated by Klein:

Here the argument is that art and its context are so deeply intertwined that the art has almost no meaning if you ignore its context:

 Learning Good Consent

Everyday Feminism

It has been found that trees communicate with each other through root systems (mycorrizhae). One of the reasons they do this is to let other trees know when they have been attacked. This is arguably a system of surveillance. 


Dana Schutz:

If you would like to read Hannah Black’s letter to the Whitney Biennial, it can be found here:

Dana Schutz’s Painting of Emmett Till at Whitney Biennial Sparks Protest

To read more of Christina Sharpe’s interview:

“What Does It Mean to Be Black and Look at This?” A Scholar Reflects on the Dana Schutz Controversy – this link looks at how money is made by selling art.

This article discusses artists who have turned their FBI files into artwork as a critical commentary or backlash on FBI surveillance of “controversial” artists, particularly focusing on Arnold Mesches, who is thought to have had 200 of his paintings stolen by the FBI. –

What Americans think about NSA surveillance, national security and privacy:

Humans are predisposed to watch and copy others according to and the idea of “herd mentality.”

1984 tackles the idea of constant surveillance and lack of personal freedom as a result because “Big Brother is watching.” In the Handmaid’s Tale the guards that surveil everyone to ensure accordance with the law are called “Eyes.” Both of these books deal with the theme of being watched, and even though the obtrusive watched is not a literal eye, that is what is behind the camera. 

The Aesthetic Relations of Art to Reality –


“Can anything be performance art?” by characterizing parts of the discipline:

To address your final question from a more scientific perspective, here is a link to an article about trust published in the Harvard Business Review: . The article discusses how it is innate for humans to be hardwired to trust other humans and make social connections.

NYC Surveillance Camera Project:

The New Jim Crow 

Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo 

 COINTELPRO, the surveillance at Standing Rock, the MOVE bombing. These are things I would look up in regards to State surveillance and repression.

Days of War, Nights of Love: PDF: crimethinc-days-of-war-nights-of-love

Ai Wei Wei:

Dries Depoorter:





Supplement to Trevor Paglen “Invisible Images (Your Pictures Are Looking At You)” Reading

Trevor Paglen:

Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975)


Emory Douglas  

Emory Douglas was the Revolutionary Artist of the Black Panther Party and subsequently became its Minister of Culture, part of the national leadership. He created the overall design of the Black Panther, the Party’s weekly newspaper, and oversaw its layout and production until the Black Panthers disbanded in 1979–80. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, Douglas made countless artworks, illustrations, and cartoons, which were reproduced in the paper and distributed as prints, posters, cards, and even sculptures. All of them utilized a straightforward graphic style and a vocabulary of images that would become synonymous with the Party and the issues it fought for. The images below are images used in these publications:

sourced from:



Catherine Opie 

Catherine Opie,  Self-Portrait Cutting (detail), 1993

Catherine Opie, Chicken, from the Being and Having Series, 1992

Catherine Opie, Self-portrait / Pervert, 1994

Catherine Opie, Self-portrait / Nursing, 1994

sourced from:

Adam Harvey CV Dazzle (2010-present)

CV Dazzle is a type of camouflage from computer vision. It uses bold patterning to break apart the expected features targeted by computer vision algorithms.CV Dazzle works by altering the expected dark and light areas of a face (or object) according to the vulnerabilities of a specific computer vision algorithm. In the image above (Look #1), the design targets the Viola-Jones face detection algorithm, a popular and open source face detector that is included with the OpenCV computer vision framework. CV Dazzle designs can be created using only hair styling, makeup, and fashion accessories for any type of face.


Style Tips

  1. Makeup Avoid enhancers. They amplify key facial features. This makes your face easier to detect. Instead apply makeup that contrasts with your skin tone in unusual tones and directions: light colors on dark skin, dark colors on light skin.
  2. Nose Bridge Partially obscure the nose-bridge area. The region where the nose, eyes, and forehead intersect is a key facial feature. This is especially effective against OpenCV’s face detection algorithm.
  3. Eyes Partially obscure one or both of the ocular regions. The symmetrical position and darkness of eyes is a key facial feature.
  4. Masks Avoid wearing masks as they are illegal in some cities. Instead of concealing your face, modify the contrast, tonal gradients, and spatial relationship of dark and light areas using hair, makeup, and/or unique fashion accessories.
  5. Head Research from Ranran Feng and Balakrishnan Prabhakaran at University of Texas, shows that obscuring the elliptical shape of a head can also improve your ability to block face detection. Link: Facilitating fashion camouflage art. Use hair, turtlenecks, or fashion accessories to alter the expected elliptical shape.
  6. Asymmetry Face detection algorithms expect symmetry between the left and right sides of the face. By developing an asymmetrical look, you can decrease your probability of being detected.

sourced from:

Julian Oliver, HARVEST (2017)

HARVEST is a work of critical engineering and computational climate art. It uses wind-energy to mine cryptocurrency, the earnings of which are used as a source of funding for climate-change research. Taking the form of a 2m wind turbine with environmental sensors, weatherproof computer and 4G uplink, HARVEST ‘feeds’ from two primary symptoms of our changing climate: wind gusts and storms. It does this by transforming wind energy into the electricity required to meet the demanding task of mining cryptocurrency (here Zcash), a decentralised process where computers are financially rewarded for their work maintaining and verifying a public transaction ledger known as the blockchain. Rather than filling the digital wallet of the artist, all rewards earned by the HARVEST mining machine are paid out as donations to non-profit climate change research organisations such that they can better study this planetary-scale challenge.

Acting as a fully functional prototype beyond a media-art context, it is envisaged hundreds of such HARVEST nodes could be deployed in the windiest parts of the world, together generating large sums of supplementary funding for climate-change NGOs in a time where climate science itself is under siege from the fossil-fuelled interests of governments and corporations.

sourced from: 


Supplement to Simone Browne reading- “The Art of Security” and “Conclusion”

Pamela Z Baggage Allowance (2011)

Baggage Allowance is a sonically and visually layered intermedia work developed by Pamela Z in three interconnected components– a solo multi-media performance, a gallery installation, and an interactive web portal – all with shared content and materials.

Through vocal performance with electronic processing, found text, and recorded interviews, multi-channel sound, interactive video, and sculptural objects, Baggage Allowance scans and inventories the belongings (and memories) we all cart around. The work explores the concept of baggage in its many senses – physical, intellectual, and emotional – baggage as impediment and baggage as treasure.

Drawing from Ms. Z’s extensive traveling and cartage experiences, text from found sources, and interviews with travelers who speak poetically about their memories of train travel and flying and their numerous baggage-related stories, the work features episodes that touch upon the ball-and-chain-ness of dragging one’s things all over the world.

The installation consists of multiple audio, video, and sculptural elements including a weeping steamer trunk, a mock X-ray machine that reveals secrets when bags pass through it, and a vintage suitcase inside of which lies a woman sleeping and worrying. The solo performance includes a series of vignettes and episodes relating to the cartage and attachment performed with live voice, electronic processing, and interactive video. All the versions of this work explore the concept of baggage in its many senses– physical, intellectual, and emotional – baggage as impediment and baggage as treasure.

The Performance

The Installation

The Web Portal:

sourced from:

Evan Roth TSA Communication (Art in Airports) (2008)

TSA Communication is a project that alters the airport security experience, inviting the government to learn more about passengers than just the contents of their carry on bags. Messages are cut into thin 13″ x 10″ sheets of stainless steel designed to comfortably fit inside airline carry on baggage. During the x-ray screening process, the technology normally designed to view the contents of a traveler’s baggage is transformed into a communication tool for displaying messages aimed at airport security. The content of the plates varies from flight to flight, but includes “NOTHING TO SEE HERE”, an image of the American flag and the TSA’s (Transportation Security Agency’s) mission statement as listed on its website, “I AM THE FRONTLINE OF DEFENSE, DRAWING ON MY IMAGINATION TO CREATIVELY PROTECT AMERICA FROM HARM”.

Sourced from 


Digital Art Exhibition at Toronto Pearson International Airport
Terminal 1 – Level 3 Terrace, Departures Level 
July 1, 2007 – May 5, 2008

Terminal Zero One (T01) is a site-specific digital art exhibition of five projects exploring themes of contemporary air travel and the architecture of airports. Airports are networks, information is increasingly networked, the T01 exhibit examines people as data, motion as trajectories and the symbiosis of virtual and actual.

The public is invited to experience the projects via touch sensitive screens, SMS text messaging, a webcam and as a controlled 3D avatar navigating through a simulated terminal. Track real-time flight activity originating from Pearson International Airport through a live data stream. Reinterpret the familiar by manipulating universal airport symbols and flight information screens. Engage in dialogue about controversial issues of international security and human rights. T01 is a portal into digital artworks that reflect the technology, movement and connectivity of the contemporary international airport – a transitory space where notions of borders, time and place are temporarily suspended.

sourced from: