Brooklyn-based artist Duke Riley describes his work this way in his artist statement:
My work addresses the prospect of residual but forgotten unclaimed frontiers on the edge and inside overdeveloped urban areas, and their unsuspected autonomy. I am interested in the struggle of marginal peoples to sustain independent spaces within all-encompassing societies, the tension between individual and collective behavior, the conflict with institutional power. I pursue an alternative view of hidden borderlands and their inhabitants through drawing, printmaking, mosaic, sculpture, performative interventions, and video structured as complex multimedia installations.
His piece Trading with the Enemy seems to fit the bill perfectly. Riley trained 50 homing pigeons to travel from Havana to Key West, Fla. Half the flock were smugglers of Cuban cigars while the rest documented their travels on film. The cigar-laden pigeons were given names of notorious smugglers such as Pierre Lafitte, while the filmers were given names of famous film directors who have had run-ins with the law: i.e. Roman Polanski and Mel Gibson. I imagine there’s a certain thrill to subverting hi-tech drones with good old fashion homing pigeons. Riley’s connection to the birds goes back to his childhood, after rescuing one, letting it go free, and finding that it returned to him. Trading With the Enemy is part of an exhibit titled See You at the Finish Line currently at Magnan Metz in Chelsea. Two of the pigeons are for sale at the gallery along with the art. The show will run through January 11, 2014. For those who can’t make it in person, you can watch the video of the pigeons’ adventure, below.
Photos courtesy of MagnanMetz & The New York Times