ART PROJECT: An Experiment on a Bird

By Svenja Schüffler

The drawings of the new project titled »An Experiment on a Bird« relate to experiments and installations of Svenja Schüffler concerning seismic risk and early warning, trying to intersect art and science. The experiments and underlying ideas are introduced at the platform Anthropocene Curriculum of Haus der Kulturen der Welt HKW/Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in the form of essays at the following links: Installing Seismic Risk of Istanbul // KAIROS Earthquake Early Warning Application

The drawing of the Kakadu (Cockatoo) perching at/under a concrete piece shows an important protagonist of the experiments of Svenja Schüffler. The Kakadu´s life is under threat. As he is exposed to seismic risk, collapsing concrete slabs might come crushing down on him. The bird becomes the experimental animal; a living being as scientific object. What can be observed and testified in this experiment is the bird´s possible survival or death. What decides on  survival or death are probability distributions calculated in real time.

Equally to Robert Boyles canonical  Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, documented in the painting of Josef W. of Derby 1768 at National Gallery of Art in London, the Kakadu´s status as living being and scientific object at once, testifies a new form of scientific matters of fact. Elicitated and testfied matters of fact are characterised as uncertain knowledge expressed as probabilities and probability distributions.

But before the Kakadu might be killed in an earthquake experiment by concrete slabs, according to the probability distribution, he still has something to say. The bird is not only exposed to the seismic risk, but, in case of a calculated earthquake and a calculated subsequent building collapse, he will enounce an early warning, speak out loud the countdown and finally instruct a navigation for rescue. Project by Svenja Schüffler, Berlin 2016