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A Darwinian Conundrum

36"h x 36"l x 12"w

Photos by Melisa Kroening

When I started on my recent bird series my thinking was with the air, land, and seaworthiness of some of our feathered friends, and how it pertained to so many human developments that looked to mimic these capabilities. We aren’t any good in the water, thus the boat. We are completely inept in the air, thus the airplane, and we are just so-so on land, and so therefore the wheel, and even the horse. But some birds are quite well adapted to the air, land and sea. 


My images have tried to bring together aspects of the bird design as nature has created, along with those of human invention in our effort to better function in challenging environments. As is always the case, there are growing pains in any science. It is both comical, and probable that our early efforts at approximating the talents that a heron, for instance, has in flight, would be rudimentary and altogether faltering. Likewise we floundered a bit in the early sciences regarding water vessels. To this day, the sea floor is being littered with our sea-going fails. 


In my piece, “A Darwinian Conundrum”, I considered the various purposes and stumbling blocks in the way of machine as bird. Were we to successfully design and create a mechanical bird, controllable and yet as efficient in its function, and to a useful scale for our wants and needs, we would

have a truly remarkable piece of engineering on our hands. In what ways would bioengineering come to play, and in what ways would more traditional mechanical function favor the materials we have developed from ores, and synthetics. What would be the most likely purposes for such a creation? For travel? Warfare? Excavation? We have made remarkable machines for each of these purposes, and many resemble a bird in one or more aspects, but none approach the elegance of a bird, or the sheer adaptability in their design. None with the fluidity of movement, or the reflexes of the natural creature. 


As I pecked away at this piece, I found myself following various ideas as they occurred to me, and ended up with what I think is a fairly ridiculous figure that would most likely be good at absolutely nothing! But in the end, I feel like my creature/machine bears a certain charm that is generally missing in our truly functional heavy equipment sciences. If Caterpillar is interested in making a visual statement with it’s next generation of excavators, or Hanjin wants back in the game of sea-lane shipping systems, or if Boeing wants their passengers to have a new and frightening option for tourist flight, they can call me! I’d love to help out! I’ll bring the look if they bring the function!

DarwinianConundrum, detail_04.jpg
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