Bird Feces as Digital Fine Art

by Rodney Pygoya Chang

May 24. 2009


As an artist, I also get outdoors by training for marathons.  Several weeks ago, on a stretch of highway that I have run for decades, I noticed some bird poop on the roadside asphalt.  Of course I have seen abundant droppings under overlying tree branches before.  But at that particular instant, inspiration struck the creative mind.  Maybe it was the long miles, dehydration, and the hot Hawaiian sun.  The dried splats of white, green, yellow and gray looked to me like paint.  As a digital artist, I  mentally “cut & pasted” them unto my current abstract digital artwork.  Below are the results.  Indeed, the bird droppings complement my abstracts, rendering the original compositions to backgrounds for the poop.  Ah, high tech art meets bird poop, or birds shits on my artwork, or now I have made some really "shitty paintings!"

The other day, straight out of cyber-space via email, a professor of Moscow University introduced himself and said he was interested in my online digital art for a book he was planning to write.  He invited me to do the English version while he wrote in his native Russian.  He said more about digital art as a new contemporary art form needed to be written in the Russian language.

After we became acquaintances, I told him of my latest “digital art” using bird feces.  He surprised me by commenting that in the early 1950’s some Russian artists included cock feces to materialize their art.  This made me ponder about the relationship of feces and art making in the past.

I recalled that the late Italian artist, Piero Manzoni, canned his own feces in 1961, making Western art history.  It was conceptual as well as Pop art.  Anything, indeed, could be declared "art" by the artist.  In Manzoni’s case, the canned excrement was also a political stab at the traditional (and proper) art establishment. Then there is Chris Offili of Haitian Catholic heritage who produced paintings of the Virgin Mary covered with elephant dung.

I also recalled using my own dung as art material.  When I was a toddler, locked up in a “play pen” that I could not yet climb over to physical freedom, I once took handfuls from my soiled diaper and made a mess all over the pen. Boredom, protest, and creativity made me do it.  My mother later said I also had it all over my face and in my mouth.  Talk about total immersion in one's work!  Such exploration at an early age signaled my later lifelong experimentation with another art medium, that of digital tools.

So Feces Art, or “Shitty Art” existed before my new “cyberpaintings” that include nesting birds’ natural function.  So what makes these works different or special?  What makes them historical?  

I believe they are the first photo realistic replication of bird poop to be incorporated into digital fine art.  The artist’s intent is that, at first glance, the bird markings appear merely as splashes of paint within an abstract painterly field.  Then shock and awe occurs when the spectator realizes it’s realistically rendered bird feces, familiar to all around the planet that drive, walk, or sit in the shade of trees.

The use of bird feces as subject matter by me is historical for digital fine art.  The act also incorporates Pop Art's spirit into contemporary digital fine art.













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