The Thorn Birds, is a conference about homing pigeons and labyrinths. In order to understand the art of pigeon fancying, we will follow the everyday ritual of Freddy Vallin, a pigeon fancier whom the artist befriended last year in the Northern France. The ethnographical talk will progressively turn into a poetic evocation of labyrinths through the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
Homing pigeons live for only one thing: getting back to their pigeon lofts. Used for communication over centuries, the relationship between the birds and their owners is strictly sporting nowadays. Pigeon fanciers raise their birds all year long, and make them race from June to September. A championship consists of releasing the birds, which then return to their pigeon lofts over a carefully measured distance. They hurry to come back home and the players record the time of each bird in order to make a classification. A good pigeon fancier knows how to choose his champions. He carefully observes them during training practices, he selects the stallions and the « death row » individuals, as Freddy Vallin calls them: those destined to be cooked at the end of each season.
The project consists in using six « death row » pigeons owned by Mr. Vallin for six releases in October 2013. The releases will move progressively further away from their home nest of Auby, near Lille, covering increasing distances until Gottingen, Germany in partnership with le Centre régional de la photographie du Nord-Pas-de-Calais (Douchy les Mines), The Ister (Bruxelles), la fondation Calouste Gulbenkian (Paris), la Rijksakademie (Amsterdam), Thomas Kerk (Amsterdam), Beyoncé (Amsterdam), Kunstverein (Gottingen).
Every release will be an opportunity for the birds to escape from their tragic destiny: neighboring potatoes covered by creamy pepper sauce in a plate. Getting lost, remaining in a labyrinth, becomes the only way out from death.