CAW, Santa Barbara, California

Crows at CAW

Ready to Hang was taking place at CAW (Community Arts Workshop) in Santa Barbara. Michael Long, the producer of the show, in collaboration with Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative, wanted projection and asked us if we could do crows flying across the ground. The obvious thing was to film them and then invert the imagery to have white crows flying on a black background. This is known as the “ombre blanche” or “white shadow” method of projection and has been used since the days of magic lanterns. The real challenge was: “How do you film crows flying overhead, in a consistent manner, without chasing them all over the place?” Our friend, Tal, likes walking around town and always brings his portable speaker with him. On it, he has a particular sound of crows that immediately causes them to converge. It may be a distress call, but we’re not certain. 

We opted to point two “flying crows” projectors at the ground by the entryway of CAW. On a wall at the far end of the courtyard, we used a third movie of white shadow crows on an electrical line for balance. What was peculiar was how many people took pictures of the latter. In reality, it was something that we see every day; crows on a power line. It was a classic version of taking the ordinary and making something special out of it.  

We set up three iPhones in our front yard at 120 frames per second and pointed them skyward. Within a few seconds of starting the audio, the crows began flying in from all points of the compass. A couple of minutes later, hundreds had arrived, many perching on the power lines and even more circling directly overhead. Their raucous cacophony brought out the neighbors. 

crows - color to inverted black and white
Color to inverted black and white
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