Stockholm Syndrome


Green Cheek Conure Parrot and juvenile Starling
specimens with broken cage
Taxidermy/mixed media
Price: 475.00

Stockholm syndrome may seem like a bit of a provocative title for this piece, but it requires us to take this very human condition and apply it to a wider scope. In order to do this we have to discuss some definitions. Strictly put, Stockholm syndrome in this case is the affinity of a subordinate towards their dominator founded on principals of abuse, empathy, and the perceived potential for protection. It is an unbalanced power relationship that is initiated by the dominate party. When we open this idea up to our relationship with nature, we can see that this behavior is quite permissive. I do not wish to take much of a stand on the moral elements regarding this, but rather want to explore what this relationship says about our interaction with the rest of the natural world. Is it possible that we only consider the animals that are reliant on our protection and affection desirable? Is the rest of creation wild, feral, and threatening? Do we only truly love the members of the animal kingdom that can respond to us positively in this unbalanced power relationship? Of course we see the reaction of a human victim experiencing Stockholm syndrome as weakened and bending under negative influences. I am not interested in our attribution of natural majesty towards the poster children of our favorite documentaries and conservation money makers. I want to discuss our relationship with the animals we actually interact with, the ones we are comfortable avoiding, the ones that are shoed out of a zoo because they don’t capture our hearts as well as need to put things on pedestals; Starlings for instance.
Of course Starlings don’t really give a shit what a parrot is doing, nor do they exhibit confusion as to the dopey and seemingly happy existence it has bound up in its gilt cage. It is very intentional to use a starling, and also very intentional to use a juvenile one. Here we have a bird with the proud distinction of being exempt from the migratory bird protections because of its invasive status. Both birds here are imports, one will cost you 200 bucks, the other is only worth the price on its head by municipal animal control vigilantes. We see pictures of urban hunters with buckets of dead birds smiling with a check from the city. The starling itself acts as a type of forgotten stepchild to the city dweller. It was brought here, and encouraged to breed prolifically as a way to populate the united states with all birds mentioned in Shakespeare plays and did so with great fervor. Along with its invasive cousins the Pidgin (Rock Dove), and European House Sparrow, Starlings have become the backdrop for our urban understanding of wild things. But so human they have become in their efforts to adapt to our lifestyles, yet they do not show dependence. A crow will drop a nut into a busy street, wait at the crosswalk for traffic to stop, and then claim its prize. Grackles have included the sounds of police sirens and air conditioner compressors into their repertoire of sexy love songs. This truly is urban living!
I am the proud owner of many a domesticated creature, and I am often surprised how very me-like they are. Of course this may just be an attribute that I place on them, however I cant help but be amazed at the incredible imprinting I see in my little darlings. While my cats are very much individuals, with their own personality quirks and adorable habits, they seem to have picked up pieces of me along the way. The only way I can really recognize this is by comparing them to my friends cats. This imprinting is certainly the case with dogs, I would venture to say its even a scientifically provable fact. Nature versus Nurture in Nature. Are dogs more human than chimps? In many categories I would say yes. Thanks to Stockholm syndrome.
What is the depth of understanding we as individuals are willing to give to the life forms around us. None of this is based on intelligence, or even beauty for that matter. Let’s compare a raccoon and a dog. When talking about several raccoons that I have taken to feeding: “You ever seen an angry raccoon? They are vicious! They have rabies, you shouldn’t go near them! They are nothing like dogs!” Of course my response is that I would still eat them both, and treat the broken legs of both. And yes, I have seen many many angry raccoons. I have saved them from unintentional traps that human waste continually snags them in. I don’t expect a hug when I free them. I just hope to not lose a finger. I have also seen a German Shepherd eat the face off of a child. The real difference here is that I will never judge an animal by its undomesticated instincts. Lions will eat Lion tamers, even after decades of dating. The only way to get rid of nature is to breed it out of something over the course of generations. You can then breed aggression right back into an animal, but that should never be confused with natural instincts. German Shepherds eat off faces because we want them to. This is not the same as a wolf eating your face off, they do that because they want to.

I thought that making this look like an old woman’s Parrot would lend a bit of charm to it which is the reason for the fake flowers, 1940’s color lace. This piece is best served in an environment. When not on tour, this piece rests atop a player piano

The two specimens are mounted traditionally using borax. The cage was a store bought wire cage which was then decorated with “old lady” elements. Pretty straight forward piece structurally. I felt that it was necessary to develop a sort of pathos with the absent owner, which in this case is meant to symbolize our incessant need to collect and dominate nature in very innocent ways.