Can Animals Be Art? Meet Venice’s Painted Pigeons

Urbanites–Venetians in particular–know pigeons as omnipresent pests. But this week, festival-goers in Venice saw the city birds as bright and bold works of art.

This year, at the Venice Biennale, Swiss artist Julian Charriere and German-born Julius von Bismarck, who was the first artist in residence at CERN, executed a project called (in a nod to Orwell) “Some Pigeons Are More Equal Than Others” whereby they spray-painted pigeons and released them in the city.

The pigeons were made-over using a conveyor belt-like mechanism that the artists first tested on a rooftop in Copenhagen. Turquoise, fuchsia, and other intense tones were spotted around St. Mark’s Square this week, replacing the familiar gray coloration of these well-known residents of Venice and cities everywhere.

Charriere told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that the spray-painting was employed “without any danger to the animals.”

Maybe so, but though undeniably interesting, the exhibit walks an uneasy ethical line. What do you think? Are animals a suitable canvas?