A nice write up on SCOLD in Oregon ArtsWatch – thank you Matt Stengel!


At Portland2016 satellite location c3:initiative, it’s impossible not to recall a famous study that was conducted at the University of Washington back in 2006, when wildlife sciences professor Dr. John Marzluff had a blossoming theory about crows.

He’d noticed that the ominous black avians tended to become wary of him after he’d captured them for study. Not only did the crows he’d tagged seem to recognize him despite time apart, but they’d go so far as to alert their neighboring brethren of his presence, inciting mobs of angry birds. This reaction made it more difficult to study the species behaving as they would when nobody is watching. He felt like the crows remembered him. That they were talking about him. Joining forces against him. Him and him alone.

Carla Bengtson, c3 initiative, Portland2016/ Photo by Matt Stangel

To see if crows could indeed remember specific individuals, he sent students out to various locations in the Seattle area to capture and band (tag around the ankle) local crows. While tagging the crows, students wore a Dick Cheney mask, exposing the subjects to a standardized aggressor. It wasn’t long before the birds began acting defensively toward anyone wearing the Cheney mask. Other masks of different faces didn’t elicit much of a response. But Cheney made a quick pariah of its wearer. Crows, Marzluff and his team discovered, not only possess the ability to recognize faces and recall them over months and years, but also to alert other members of their species to known enemies. Clever little guys…

Born from this experiment is artist Carla Bengtson’s collaboration with biologist Peter Wetherwax, “Species Calling Out Liars and Deniers (S.C.O.L.D.),” which bills itself as a “guerilla-style intervention partnering with crows to target climate-change deniers for public scoldings.” Just like in the experiment described above, local crows will be conditioned to perceive a specific mask as a threat, but this time that mask features the face of none other than Donald Trump.

In order to condition such a response, the artists and any willing participants will come together “at crow gatherings wearing masks of climate-change deniers while holding taxidermied crows.” A little macabre, but I’m not sure how else you’d get a bunch of crows to hate Donald Trump.

Though this “public intervention” will take place on September 10 at c3:initiative and other locations yet be announced, Bengtson introduces the project’s visual language with two sculptures and a video piece featuring the visage of Donald Trump, calling attention to the “S.C.O.L.D.” project’s larger intentions. Simultaneously, Bengtson introduces an element of protest that continues throughout the work of the other artists showing at c3 for Portland2016.