Angry birds: avian art vandals attack their own reflections

Posted by pt91 at Jul 18, 2012 11:15 AM |
Mirror sculpture defaced by crows at art exhibition
Angry birds: avian art vandals attack their own reflections

A crow beholds its reflection - or a rival. ©steve russell

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 18 July 2012

Jpeg image of Simon Hitchens’ sculpture – complete with damage inflicted by the crows – available from

An outdoor sculpture exhibition resembled a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds after crows began savagely attacking one of the pieces.

Organisers of the University of Leicester’s annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibition were taken aback after discovering a group of crows furiously defacing a large mirror sculpture.

The sculpture by artist Simon Hitchens, entitled “In the eye of the beholder”, features a limestone monolith placed in front of a 7ft-tall polishes stainless steel screen.

Within days of being installed at the University’s Harold Martin Botanic Garden, scratches from claws and beaks, bird spit and marks from wing flapping werevisible on the mirrored screen.

Despite the birds’ ferocious attack on the piece, each of the other 18 sculptors’ work remained unscathed –leading organisers to suspect the crows had become enraged by their own reflections.

Simon, 45, who lives in the Blackdown Hills, Somerset, has exhibited the piece outdoors twice before, but never encountered this problem.

He said: “There was one incident with a chaffinch when I showed the piece at the Grove Hotel last summer, but never anything like this.


After hearing about the damage, Simon considered removing the piece from the exhibition, entitled “Interesting Times”, but then decided it should stay for the duration of the show.

“My first reaction was frustration," he said. "The piece works so well if the mirrored surface is pristine and you are not aware of its materiality, only the reflection within it.

"I decided that the physical interaction by the birds brings another, unexpected element to the work and I'm interested to see how our understanding of the piece changes during the exhibition because of this avian interaction. 

"Normally my pieces sit in a serene and contemplative state - all well and good, but in this instance I like the sense of not knowing how this interaction will alter the understanding of the work.  It now has a bit of 'edge'.

"I suppose the sight of birds interacting with the sculpture, I assume as a confused and aggressive act, allows us another insight into what the work is talking about - alter egos, body and soul, confronting our demons, life anddeath.  I believe the sculpture is now truly 'living', reflecting the world around it with candour."

Almuth Tebbenhoff, the exhibition’s curator, said: “We usually walk up to a mirror with the desire to have our own beauty reflected back to us and wereact accordingly with delight, despair or resignation. We are generally too civilised to go and attack the mirror if we don't like what we see. We are also aware that the reflection in the mirror is not competing with us for our territory.

“What the birds saw was their own aggression reflected back and, lacking the experience of such surfaces, took it for something coming from the outside. As their fury escalated they saw their reflections get more and more aggressive. Isn't this how wars start?”

“It is a great piece of art that can show you something so important - in this case it was a collaboration between artist and nature.”

The piece has now been cleaned but will remain in the botanic garden and will have to fend for itself against the crows over the four-month duration of the exhibition.



Pictures of the sculpture and damage are available. Email to request jpegs.

For more information, please contact Stella Couloutbanis, visual arts manager at the University’s Embrace Arts, at, or telephone: 0116 223 1529, mobile 07854 777 432.

Simon Hitchens can be contacted at or on 07941 650 164. You can visit his website at:

Almuth Tebbenhoff can be contacted at or on 020 8870 9708. You can visit her website at:

About the exhibition:

'Interesting Times' runs from Sunday 1st July to Sunday 28th October 2012 at the Harold Martin Botanic Garden in Oadby. The visitor entrance is on Glebe Road, LE2 2LD. The garden is open seven days a week, 10.00am to 4.00pm. Entry is free, except on special event days. The paths are suitable for wheelchairs and there aredisabled-access toilets.

For more information, please visit:

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