December 04, 2002
New frontiers in art and literature

First, there was cow poetry:

[Nathan] Banks, a 22-year-old student at Purchase College, painted single words (from "a" to "existential") on the flanks of about 60 cows near his upstate New York home, then let them wander around to see if they could compose poetry.

So Holsteins and Jerseys named Elsie and Maggie came up with phrases like "eccentric art," "performance as cow environment" and Banks' own favorite, "organic conceptual art as poetry."

Too bad there are only a finite number of cows available for this project, or we could have finally tested that hypothesis about eventually writing all the works of Shakespeare. Maybe next time.

So what's the point of this, then? Fortunately, as with the poetry itself, the cows provided the answer:

"There was a big concern that the cows would be stressed and give less milk," Banks said. [Cow owner] Gerry Ruestow said milk production actually went up a bit, "probably because the cows were a bit more active. The cows were as interested in the observers as the observers were in the cows."

Take that, PETA!

Once you have cow poetry, the next logical step is - you guessed it - sheep poetry. The benefit here is a bit more abstract and metaphysical:

[Artist Valerie] Laws, 48, said: "I like the idea of using living sheep to create a living poem, and creating new work as they move around.

"Quantum mechanics is a branch of physics which a lot of people find hard to understand, as it seems to go against common sense.

"Randomness and uncertainty is at the centre of how the universe is put together, and is quite difficult for us as humans who rely on order.

"So I decided to explore randomness and some of the principles of quantum mechanics, through poetry, using the medium of sheep."

You know, I just don't think I can add anything to that. I tried to come up with a witty Heisenberg joke, but failed miserably. If any of my readers who are more hip to quantum mechanics want to take a shot at it, the comments await you.

Thanks to Lesley for finding both of these stories.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 04, 2002 to Society and cultcha | TrackBack

Ironic that we'd both have livestock on our minds (and sites) today.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on December 4, 2002 9:57 AM

I don't even want to think about what that means. :-)

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 4, 2002 10:52 AM