Extinct for a Century, Once-Plentiful Passenger Pigeons Represent Persecution
Initially, the parallels between the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the flight of Jewish families from the Ukraine may not seem obvious. However, a collaborative art installation at Duquesne University, Moving Targets, by Steffi Domike and Ann Rosenthal with Ruth Fauman Fichman combines environmental history and the artists' genealogy to connect the dots.
The interplay of mixed media, interdisciplinary artworks asks who or what is viewed as expendable and the impact of the loss on what remains. The installation correlates the extermination of passenger pigeons 100 years ago with attempts to annihilate Ukrainian Jews around the turn of the 20th century and examines the ethics of both.
A three-part series on campus, free and open to the public, is slated for Thursday, Nov. 6, through Saturday, Dec. 6. Events are:
Panel discussion and film From Billions to None: A Documentary
Thursday, Nov. 6, 6 p.m., Power Center Ballroom
Patrick McShea of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and others. Light refreshments will be served.
Exhibition tour and reception for Moving Targets: Of Extinction and Survival
Tuesday, Nov. 11, 5 to 7 p.m., Gumberg Library, fourth floor
Artists Steffi Domike and Ann T. Rosenthal, with Ruth Fauman Fichman, traced their families' flight from Europe to North America in parallel with the decline of the passenger pigeon. In addition, the artists curated a Passenger Pigeon Portrait Gallery with 14 artists residing in the former nesting range of the pigeon. Light refreshments will be served. The exhibition continues through Saturday, Dec. 6. Guests outside the Duquesne campus community should call 412.396.6130 before visiting.
Book signing and lecture by Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction
Thursday, Dec. 4, 3 to 4 p.m. Duquesne's Barnes & Noble Café, book signing; 4:30 to 5:45 p.m., Power Center Ballroom, lecture.
Naturalist Greenberg will sign his book before addressing how the passenger pigeon, once the most abundant bird in North America, was driven to extinction and the lessons for humans about mass extinction.
"It's a learning opportunity to see the impact, the cause of devastating gigantic numbers of species and a chance to talk about conservation," said Dr. Erik Garrett, assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies, who helped to organize the events. "At one time, the passenger pigeon population was deemed by (naturalist James) Audubon to be inexhaustible."
Human behavior in the face of this seemingly endless resource, Garrett said, "is a public, major tragedy. We have undertaken this series to see how to understand what other species we are driving to the edge."
Artist Rosenthal questions the mentality driving such behavior. "Unlike the passenger pigeon, our forebears could cross an ocean and establish a new home to survive."
This series is one of several area events and exhibitions marking the centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon through Project Passenger Pigeon. A complete listing of programs is online at www.passengerpigeonpittsburgh.org.
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