Storks and Cities


Storks and Cities: Works in Progress (2020 onwards)

Storks and Cities: Works in Progress is a collaborative project by Catherine Clover and Steve Baker. The project considers how white storks transform the European urban environments in which they nest, and how in turn those environments accommodate themselves to the birds’ presence. Cath’s interests are in changing patterns of migration (Europeans first learned about bird migration by studying white storks), and more particularly in questions of language. She sees the city as “a trigger for voice.” White storks offer a distinctive perspective from which to explore voice in cities as they are technically voiceless (they don’t make sound using their syrinx), but are far from silent. My photographs (taken principally in Portugal since 2o18) also show the proximity of storks to the ubiquitous urban languages of graffiti, outdoor advertising and traffic signs. Their active shaping of urban space applies not only in the birds’ material situation, but also to their meaning. Just as the stork becomes less migratory because of the rich pickings that cities provide, this project has found evidence of its beginning to appear in contemporary graffiti as a pro-immigration symbol. I gave an interim report on the development of Storks and Cities at the conference The Animal Gaze Constructed in March 2020, and a first iteration of the project will appear as part of an online publication from Soundfjord in the coming months.