Not a Bad Dream

Every morning I wake up to a dream, that I don’t remember. There is a very distinct reason to it. I hear a bird whistle. It uses the same two notes all the time. When it is in a more generous mood, it even sings four tones. The sound is very pristine, because of the chamber like acoustics of the rather narrow courtyard. It is surrounded by five-storey apartment blocks. There is nothing special about those apartments, if you look at them from the outside. It is all grey, a colour that anticipates the damp and cloudy days of Winter. Not that I think of it, the Polish Winter that will come in a couple of months. In a couple of months is in a couple of months. Now, at the end of Summer somewhere south of the river in Warsaw, I continue to give ear to sounds that come to me from outside: children playing every day, and that bird that welcomes every new morning with the same two-tone salute.

Today the dream had many faces, and one of them told me in a quite casual way that the bird was a parrot. I stared into her face for a moment, and thought: “Of course. No bird sings like that. This was a parrot who imitated a man who had imitated a bird endlessly, every day, until the parrot got it and started to give of these two notes.” They resemble a bit the clear squeak of a gate when it opens and closes again: it sounds like a little protest against being used, born from stubbornness. I also thought of a picture of mine, as a boy, dressed at my Sunday’s best, short trousers, shirt, hair in shape, sharp shoes. It was made somewhere around 1967 in a long gone black and white fashion. I stood next to a giant parrot, at a respectable distance, because I was afraid the bird would knock his beak into my skull, or bite off a piece of my ear. It was an Amazon parrot, full of bright colours and it was almost my size.

And then I thought the impossible.

Ten parrots at an Art Festival. Or better. The impossible happens and someone invites me to set up a sound installation, and I bring ten parrots and ten cassette players. Each player gives of a different loop. A one minute loop that repeats over and over a fragment of a song by Robbie Williams, a historical recording of King Lear, thunder, Nächster Halt: Alexanderplatz, the eight o’clock news, No woman, no cry live at the Hammersmith Odeon, ask a friend to curate one minute, order french fries, whatever, but don’t whistle and don’t say “Bastard.” It is also a great test to see whether parrots prefer one quote over an other. One week into the sound installation when the poor girl, who has to see to it that no-one steals a cassette or feeds the animals, is very near to a hysterical attack, it will be time to see what the parrots have to tell us. And if they say something, the tape players can be turned of. Or the experiment is repeated, but now a tape player will be assigned to each individual parrot, who will undergo sonic treatment in an isolated environment. The third week of the exhibition there should be some result. And when everything is over, the birds will be liberated in the park, where they will surprise the flâneurs with King Lear quotes and Robbie Williams’ “I want to feel.”

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