Language of the Birds
Language of the Birds is a flock of twenty-three sculpted, illuminated books, which appear to have taken flight from the plaza like pigeons scared up by a passer-by. Appearing to be in motion, the books have flown open creating various wing positions with the forms of the pages and bindings. The entire artwork appears to be in motion with each book holding its position as a bird does in a flock. These sculptural elements are suspended from a geometric web of stainless steel aircraft cables. At night LED lights embedded within the books create visual patterns; at different times one might see the flock subtly pulsing or giving off a spectacular zoetropic effect.
The dynamic lights play in the night sky with the other luminous signs of the area. The energy used to illuminate the books is offset by solar panels installed as part of the project on the roof of City Lights Bookstore. Words and phrases embedded in the plaza floor below appear to have fallen from the pages. On closer inspection the fallen words are in English, Italian and Chinese selected from the neighborhood’s rich literary history. Dorka Keehn worked with the community to identify over 90 authors.
Enlarged words from their books, in the original fonts, were cast from the third floor to the atrium at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, adhered to sheets of paper and photographed to create the layout stencils. In November, 2008, over 200 people gathered on site for the unveiling. Accompanied by a marching band and a troop of singers, the individual bird/books were unveiled by Brian Goggin and his scantily-clad helpers. Language of the Birds is the result of a collaboration between the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Department of Public Works, the artists, and numerous donors and volunteers.