Parlament der Dinge, Tiere, Pflanzen und Algorithmen (Parliament of things, animals, plants and algorithms)
Theater as agility park
Magazine for the first issue (2019) of «Parlament der Dinge, Tiere, Pflanzen und Algorithmen: Theater als Taubenschlag»:
How we became the cross-species company
what has happened so far
After the first edition of “Parliament of Things, Animals, Plants and Algorithms” in fall 2019 at Neumarkt Zurich, we built a cross-species studio for ourselves and the pigeons in the attic of Jonas’ apartment in Basel. We left the pigeons in there for two weeks so they could get used to the new place. Then we opened the flap — and they were gone. Something in the communication didn’t work, we think, but we also think that can be changed. We want to practice communication with pigeons, non-verbal communication, which the pigeons are already good at, but we are not yet. For this we need a training field, we are thinking of an agility park where dog and human relate. But just not for dogs but for pigeons and people. That’s why we are now doing the following: the Neumarkt is joining in again and that makes us insanely happy and so we are building a pigeon agility park in the Chorgasse, where humans and pigeons can practice a responsible coexistence.
With the help of the agility park and five new pigeons, we are once again trying to become a cross-species company. Company from “cum panis”, with bread, as Donna Haraway writes, messmates at table are companions. The pigeons, Jonas and I share our jointly earned bread. And off we go!
The first edition was held with city pigeons. We think the move to Basel was too stressful for them. That is why we now need pigeons that are accustomed to change of location. We want to take them on guest performances. We ask our accomplice and pigeon fancier Hans Ganz Bitsch for advice. He recommends us five Greek Wuta. They are robust and used to change of location. Hans Ganz Bitsch flew championships with them, traveled all over Europe. Our pigeons were European champions, he tells us, yeah, we think, and that makes us proud. To what, actually? Anyway, it’s also that Hans Gans Bitsch can’t use the five anymore, they are too old and he has too many males. He says, I have to pinch them. Pinching is a euphemism for killing pigeons. And that’s where we come in, we think such an offer comes in handy, the pigeons can fly into a box, they must be able to if we want to go to guest performances with them. One bag of feed per pigeon, wants Hans Gans Bitsch, a total of 80, -, a pigeon he gives us in addition, a Dropper. and what the Dropper does so, more about that later. So we pick up these five discarded males in Rorbas. A pigeon is missing a piece of foot, I notice, but Hans Gans Bitsch shows me his hand. He is also missing a finger, which is not so bad. And so we bring them by postbus and train to our pigeon agility park on Chorgasse. The five are still a bit shy but we think they like the Chorgasse and so we start cleaning but also practicing choreographies, they watch us and shit just past our heads. Jonas says they only shit when the tension lets go and so I do my best to play decently and keep the tension.
What the pigeon fancier mentioned yesterday rather casually at the farewell: only two of the five pigeons are European champions, which means, only those who are European champions can fly into a box. Being able to fly into a box is important, very important, vital for our Company. Only those who can fly into a box are fit for a guest performance. Imagine we go on a guest performance and the doves want to stay at the Südpol, the Gessnerallee, the Helmhaus or the Theater Basel. That would be our ruin, end, out, it was nice with you. We would never get the pigeons out of the Südpol, 10 years they would stay there and the Südpol would be allowed to play any future show with pigeons. I do not even want to think about it, so: food is only for the one who flies into the box, bastà. Unfortunately, this is not so easy. Oh, oh, oh, it breaks our hearts, now just don’t become inconsistent, stay tough, follow through, look the other way. Those who have not yet learned, watch those who already have. that is good and fortunately there are bathtubs, Anne Linke thought of them and Cristiano Remo from Neumarkt welded them. Somewhat hungry, the pigeons discover bathing and enjoy the water. They are the best and most beautiful pigeon bathtubs ever.
In ‘When Species Meet’ Donna Haraway writes that only 10% of all the cells that make me up are genuinely human, the others belong to the funny head louse, the corrosive fungus that has made itself comfortable somewhere or the tomato over which hordes of voracious intestinal bacteria are feasting. Based on this image, we cast our company together, almost 90% pigeons and a little bit of people. But seriously now, you pigeons, you are many and we, we are quite stressed. Would you mind thinking a little more for the big picture? That would be so nice. There is still so much to do before the opening on Saturday.
In the picture I try to look calm, but it is not like that at all, because four of the pigeons are feeding in the box, they are not visible in the picture but the one that is visible does not want to find the hole.
Pigeon feet, velvety and warm on the hand, stomp, back and forth, pick, pick, why are they so nervous? And the head first, back and forth, once turned, almost all around, I almost feel sick. How do you think it feels inside a pigeon’s head like that? And how does it see me? How slow, sluggish and ponderous she is, the pigeon surely thinks. One pushes another aside with its wings so that it gets more food and touches my forearm, feathers on the skin, that is really nice. When they pick from my hand, they do so carefully, I think, one is cocky, grabs my finger, pulls on it. Hey, pigeon, this one belongs to me, carefully I pull back my finger and try to play with her, it doesn’t quite work yet.
The nicest thing today: all of them were in the flight box. Feed on the hand, hand to the hole, hand almost into the box, the head of the pigeon goes after the hand, deeper and deeper into the hole and plop, pigeon is in the box. How happy I was.
This Saturday is the opening. How am I supposed to concentrate with shit raining down next to me, please? Who’s going to clean all that? Yes, that’s what you have to deal with if you want to become a cross-species company. Communication with the non-human is a tough place, Andy Hug (the late world kickboxing champion) would have said here, we know that not only since Corona. Not everyone can communicate across species, a lot has gone wrong, a lot of misunderstanding, disappointment and injury, the undertaking must be approached gently, a lot must be unlearned and relearned. A training field is needed, an agility park. Ta-daaaa!!! Welcome to Theater as Agility Park.
Come by and you’ll see what we do all day long in our yellow and orange agility park cage. Reserve a ticket quickly, there is limited space. Admission from 3 pm on the hour. We miss and love you deeply gurr gurr forever and ever and greetings from the pigeon shit that is becoming more and more, heeeeelp!
Daniele Muscionicos writes in the NZZ: This house @Neumarkt Zurich is also a pigeonry. The Zurich city pigeon was called Iris and was named after the feminist Iris von Roten. A year ago she was the diva in one of Zurich’s most unusual theater spaces, a veritable dovecote installed by Seraina Dür and Jonas Gillmann at Chorgasse 5. Those who missed it now have the opportunity to experience the new edition of their “Parliament of Things, Animals, Plants and Algorithms” at the Theater Neumarkt. And it’s worth it. For it is a vacation for the mind to reflect in a small group, through the literatures of Lynn Margulis, Annie Sprinkle, or Donna Haraway, on the relationship to the non-human and on a worldview other than the anthropocentric one. For example, about the view of Iris on us, that winged inspiring citizen of Zurich. This September she may be called Alice and will be black feathered.
Et voilà Daniele Muscionico, we introduce:
Toi, toi, toi and welcome to the ensemble dear doves! This was written on a napkin, wrapped in it a piece of bread, the gift for the opening of “Theater als Agilitypark” from the Theater Neumarkt directors. Joy, joy, flutter, flutter. I’m sure the brown pigeon in the middle, the former European champion who loves to be in the spotlight so much, will have pecked away the soft part by tomorrow and greet us with a stylish bread collar, the latest craze in the pigeon scene!
What a beautiful-joyful-stirring opening yesterday, thank you to everyone who was there and joined us in looking for new communication skills for our agility park. We’re going to take a very short break now!
Invitation to the first ‘Pigeon Reading Group’, today, 8 p.m. at Chorgasse 5. We will read ‘The Symbiotic Planet’ by the wonderful Lynn Margulis, who writes that evolution once occurred billions of years ago and still occurs not in war of all against all, but through cooperation and symbiosis. It was bacteria that did symbiogenesis together and thus became the first cells. To those of the dandelion, the dove, the kefir that we will drink while reading, and to ours. This is exciting, for this you need no preparation, no previous knowledge but there are only a few places, so book quickly who wants to be there. We look forward to seeing Lynn Margulis and to seeing you.
Slowly I think I understand, the pigeons, Jonas and I have to unlearn a lot, so that we can do something together. We wanted pigeons that, unlike the city pigeons last year, can already do something so that when we have to leave Chorgasse at the end of October, they don’t fly away from us again and yes, these pigeons can now fly into a flight box, which means we are now fit to travel. They sit on their favorite perch, fly to the box, hop into the hole, regardless of whether there is food in it or not, hop out again and back to the perch and do this all day long in a loop. We made them a nice pigeon bath but they do not bathe, but we know that pigeons love bathing. We think that sport pigeons have not learned to bathe, they can sit quietly on the perch for a long time, fly madly fast from the sky into the box on command, and do really well the things that man asks them to do if they get food for it. When food is in the box, the jostling starts, who can push the others aside with the wings to get the most, that’s what the flight box does. Is that what we want? We want to travel with them and that’s why the box is important but we also want to have a responsible interaction in our company, we want to practice in a relationship that is not only based on conditioning and dominance. For my part, I can do really well what is required of me to be loved. And now? The pigeons bring with them that they are sports pigeons, that they fly on command and hop back into the box We bring with us that we can entertain. Also je verlernen wir jetzt. And yes dear doves, what do we want to rehearse together?
For them to unlearn that there is only food in the flight box, for me to unlearn to keep control of the situation, that was on the rehearsal schedule today. In the process, the pink rubber gloves became our toy and that’s what happened: Actually, the gloves are there to clean away pigeon shit, I kept them on a little longer today, I wanted to know how it is when pigeon beaks peck through rubber on skin. And it became something like a joint game, they tugged with their beaks on the glove, one grabbed the rubber, looked at me briefly, only very briefly and then let it go, a light clamp on the skin, hey! I want to call and rejoice.
Food! To the table! We share porridge for lunch and practice to become Companions, it is never relaxed but quite agitating, we play who eats the porridge the fastest. I try my best but they are miles ahead of me.
Pull on rubber gloves until the rubber tears, pigeon feet in slime and see if that pulls strings, Jonas back as a seat, the food cup over the head, my hands to the carousel, Jonas fingers in the beak and pull it until he pulls it away laughing, our feet as an obstacle course and my pocket as the goal of the treasure hunt, I had forgotten a few grains in it. If that’s not classic pigeon agility.
With that in mind, in the second installment of the Pigeon Reading Group, we’ll read training stories from The Companion Manifesto by Donna Haraway, at 8 p.m. at 5 Chorgasse.
And more pigeon agility: From the perch to the climbing frame, then onto Jonas’ back, balancing without slipping, the little seagull loves to do that. The little seagull, the White, is an aging wedding dove that has been retired, we were told that the wedding dove business has not flourished since Corona. This is our luck, the little gull is a real agility-ace. Also enthusiastic about the matter is the gray-black, we call her cat, she purrs as soon as she sees food. If she purrs just like that and it happens by chance when she sits on my back, it works better than any hot-stone-ayurweda-wellness-something. I know it exactly, Grey-Black imitates the neighbor’s cat that visits us regularly in Chorgasse.
Tomorrow at 7 pm we are guests at Südpol Luzern as part of m2act.
Yesterday we were on guest performance, in the Südpol Luzern for m2act. Our first one as a cross-species company. That means: sleepless nights, a lot of organization for when everything turns out quite differently than expected, what if the pigeons don’t fly into the box, what if we never get out of Südpol again? 9:45 in the Chorgasse, we rustle the food, the pigeons fly happily into the box. We dismantle the flying pole, table, climbing frame and take good care that the shit trail on the mats stays nice during transport. Then the pigeons into the hold, no, certainly not, they have to be in the front on our laps and off we go. 1pm at the South Pole, spreading shit to make it look like they just shit there. 4 pm, the pigeons fly into the rick, crap, how to play with the pigeon that sits at 6 meters high and shits down from time to time? 18:30 just before the start of the show they come to the flying pole, how now? And they play along. 20 o’clock all fly happily into the box, the show is now over, sitting on our laps, the pigeons and we drive on the autobahn A4 back to Neumarkt. We can perform on guest performances, dear doves and dear people this is a great joy!
I call the pigeon breeder Hans Ganz Bitsch in Rorbas and ask if we can take the pigeons to the field tomorrow. In the field you go with pigeons to let them fly there. To the field? Now? In autumn, winter? No, I wouldn’t. The migratory birds are gone. The birds of prey are hungry, so the roasted pigeons fly into their mouths, says Hans Ganz Bitsch. Wait until spring comes, meanwhile go with them in halls. I think he’s thinking of high ceilings, big theaters, that’s where the pigeons want to go, that’s where they want to fly, that’s what makes the pigeons happy and the big theaters happy, I’m sure. And we continue with our indoor pigeon agility training and look forward to spring, the field and migratory birds.
The doves are asleep, the séance with Vreni Spiesser begins, Vreni says we connect with the doves in sleep, why don’t you sleep with the doves, visitors ask us, rightly so, so we sleep with the doves after the séance, they sleep in their favorite seating arrangement, preferably on one leg, sometimes one wakes up, cleans its feathers, opens one eye, sneezes, closes the other, dozes off, I do it like the pigeon, count the cheerful hours only… or how did it go again? or I do it like the pigeon, I think of the feeling when I flew as a child in a dream through the house of my parents, I know how flying feels in the body, I knew it before I ever did, where does the knowledge come from, in the morning then rather rudely awakened by scratchy pigeon feet on head and face.
Theodor W. Adorno once wrote: “My dearest Bertolt, how do you think you are doing in these stirring times? (He credited Bertolt Brecht.) I’m a bit desperate right now, I have to admit honestly, and I don’t know where my head is anymore, let alone my feet. What I do know is that culture is a palace of pigeon shit, or should I write dog shit at this point? Which do you think is more appropriate dear Bertolt? Pigeon shit is much more appropriate here, dear Theodor, because I see it the same way you do. That’s why our company includes 2000 compost worms that process all the shit. And now to Donna Haraway whose Manifesto for Companions we read tomorrow at the third edition of the Pigeon Reading Group. Haraway does French kissing with her dog Cayenne and I do French kissing with the dove named Cat and with the discarded wedding dove. And they’re really good at it, seriously. During the transfer of saliva, not only viruses, bacteria, etc. are exchanged, but also genetic information. Passing on genetic information without sex. “Now that’s symbiogenesis as I’ve always imagined it” Lynn Margulis would say at the point, we’re showing the film “Symbiotic Earth” about this wonderful scientist next Wednesday.
And tomorrow we read about dogs making love and we tell about making love with pigeons, but now it’s over, we love you, you worms, pigeons and people, we have never been alone but you know that for a long time.
Dernière in the Chorgasse, thank you Theater Neumarkt for the time with you, it was nice, a visitor says, thank you for the proximity to the pigeons, your pigeons look very different from city pigeons, I think that is also due to the good light the Martin has hung and the good food of course and the theater space also. a guy wanted to meditate at and with the pigeons. a woman wanted to take the pigeon home and another said, we should french kiss with the pigeons. unlike small cats and dogs, he said, which are licked by their parents and therefore later like to be stroked, the pigeons do not like that, because the pigeons are stuck from an early age a beak in the throat, hence the idea with the tongue kissing, yes, maybe he’s right, they really do not want to be stroked the pigeons. And are we the cross-species company now? The ranger of the city of Zurich says he does not like pigeons, he says for all domestic animals (our pigeons are breeding pigeons and therefore domestic animals) there are keeping regulations, only not for pigeons, which really nobody likes, I think, except a few breeders and among them maybe just one female breeder and two artists who found a theater company together with pigeons and still Anne Linke, who stands up for pigeon-friendly architecture in the city. Media conference of the Federal Council, we can continue to work. when is the lockdown coming? sleep stays away, catching pigeons, we move to the Gessnerallee for two weeks, read into ‘the root of the world’ by Emanuele Coccia, that always helps. He writes about plants and about our entanglement in the world. Through breathing, the air becomes what is contained in us, and conversely, what was contained in us becomes what contains us thanks to the plants and they are always in the same place. let me do it like the plant. i think of a line from a poem by Eveline Hasler for her sick sister, my mother, she wrote: wherever your body may be, we are connected through breath.