A to Z – 2023 – R is for Reading the Language of the Birds

Of all the creative license I have been using to cover my A to Z Challenge letters, this one is by far the biggest stretch. The letter “R” is not actually anywhere in the description of installation or its designer’s name. However, what seem to be flying birds are actually supposed to be books and books are usually Read so…

On the corner of Columbus and Broadway in the pedestrian plaza that links Chinatown and North Beach you will find this scene of “books” positioned in such a way to look like birds in motion. The artwork on the side of the building is representative of the North Beach scene.

Language of the Birds, as it is called, was designed by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn in 2008. It is the first solar power-offset public artwork in California. The artists teamed with scientist David Shearer and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (owner of City Lights bookstore which is right around the corner) to provide solar power to the city’s grid to offset the energy used by the artwork. You can hear the busy street sounds in the background. This was the night my husband and I had dinner at the Stinking Rose which is just up the street.

A shorter one from just a little up the street. This one really makes it look like birds flying I think.

And now as I am writing this, I am re-Reading the description on the Illuminate SF website and it says that if you look at the ground under the flock you will see pages that look like they have fallen out of the books. Of course I was looking UP so didn’t look DOWN to see that and have no pictures. From the designer’s web:

“Passing under the flock, pedestrians notice words and phrases embedded in the plaza floor that appear to have fallen from the pages. On closer inspection the fallen words are in English, Italian and Chinese and were selected from the neighborhood’s rich literary history, ranging from the Beats, to SF Renaissance poets and Chinese writers, over 90 authors are represented including Armistead Maupin, Gary Snyder, William T. Vollman, and Jade Snow Wong.

The artists created the design of the plaza floor in Atrium of the SFMOMA. Retaining their original font, individual words from chosen phrases were cast from the third floor gallery of the museum. Words fluttered down 60 feet landing on a paper replica of the plaza thus determining their resting place in the final artwork. Influenced by practices like reading tea-leaves and Japanese gardening techniques. The words intersect in ways that allow for new unique interpretations and meanings.”

Doesn’t that sound cool?

Best Viewing: After dark stand across the street on Columbus Avenue to get the full effect and then walk over to the plaza to get a close up view. Don’t forget to look down to see the words on the ground.

I think we need to go back to the Stinking Rose for dinner so I can get a picture of the words on the sidewalk and also take a peek in City Lights bookstore, don’t you? (I wrote about City Lights in my last SF A to Z.) One more letter this week and then we have a rest day.

About scr4pl80

I'm a 60-ish, married, mom to 3, creative soul looking to make the world a better place one smile at a time.
This entry was posted in A to Z Challenge 2023 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to A to Z – 2023 – R is for Reading the Language of the Birds

  1. Pingback: A to Z – 2023 – Reflection | Janet's Smiles

  2. joyweesemoll says:

    As a book lover, this is definitely a favorite!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mollyscanopy says:

    Would love to see the ground photos once you take them. I love that the words and phrases were cast out the window as a basis for the artwork design. Breathtaking!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ghostmmnc says:

    That is really interesting. Oh, hope the food was good at the restaurant. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tamara says:

    Very cool installation! Environmentally friendly, too. Is there enough sunlight in SF all year round?
    Clearly your letter R stands for the Stinking *R*ose you want to go back to so badly 😉
    I agree though, a *R*e-do is in order. We want to hear about the words on the ground!

    Liked by 1 person

    • scr4pl80 says:

      LOL I guess there is enough sunlight, but maybe it draws from solar panels on a lot of buildings? Yes, when we go back to see the words on the ground I’ll use the Rose as a treat for my hubby!


  6. E.A. Wickham says:

    I really like this one!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. DB McNicol says:

    What a project – loved it!

    My A to Z Blogs
    DB McNicol – Small Delights, Simple Pleasures, and Significant Memories
    My Snap Memories – My Life in Black & White

    Liked by 1 person

  8. kristin says:

    This sounds like an amazing and interesting sculpture! I hope you get back to get photos of the words on the ground.

    Liked by 1 person

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