THE BIRTH OF FLIGHT
I have always dreamt eyes closed, with my thoughts, exploring infinite spaces, to meditate on, to process, but after seeing the release of homing pigeons, from the moment that they take flight to look for their companion, i realized that this wasn’t a normal flight, rather a mysterious flight, whose movements release all the joy that the pigeon has gathered up to that moment, a challenge to being, a liberation. Flying is something that humankind has attempted for three thousand years, from Icarus to the astronaut who goes to the moon. The return flight of a homing pigeon emits a strange charm that strikes everyone.
There are three theories about the navigational abilities of the homing pigeon, depending on the distance:
1*Far away,1000 Km. – Still a mystery to this day in 2015. How do homing pigeons orient themselves? The distance from the launch to the cage is 1000 Km, but there are thousands of pigeons and thousands of cages at different points from the start and up to hundreds of km away from one cage to another. Each bird flies alone in the sky towards their destination; the goal being the dovecote or the partner, material or spiritual space? German scientists say that the pigeon has a microscopic compass, between the brain and the beak. Italian biologists say that the pigeons are full of magnetite, which gives them their orientation. Neither theory recognizes the other, so uncertain, and therefore valueless theories.
2* Distant, 500 Km. – They navigate with their sense of smell, recognizing every area they cross: mountains, hills or the sea. In fact, if their sense of smell is taken away with a mask over their nostrils or with a surgical operation, excluding the olfactory nerve, they are going to be a bit late, even arriving a few days later.
3* Zone, 50 Km. – They navigate by sight. By now we are in the vicinity of arrival and each bird dives into its own nest
Pigeons from all over the northern regions spanning from Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria, are collected in Lissone, Milan, then taken by truck to Battipaglia and launched from there. Through studies, research, site visits, photos, drawings and designs, I got a contract with the fashion house Naj Oleari, to whom the design was sold, for the production of fabrics for clothing and furniture. The success Design of Flight had was extraordinary and the company produced sixty percent of twenty designs in production and decided to print for seven years and to pay me, every six months, a cheque for royalties. Marie Claire, a Paris-based fashion house, copied the design and the colors chosen by me and published them in June of 1982 in the magazine N°322, on pages 236 and 237 (with all the addresses of the French stores).
Angelo Naj Oleari was angry about that and went to Paris, in order to meet the director of the fashion house, claiming that the designs were owned by him, having bought them from me for his exclusive production. The director replied saying they could copy them, “Sue us” he exclaimed. An international lawsuit was initiated and Naj Oleari won with a damage settlement of one hundred and fifty million lire, plus a cease-order on the production of the Design of Flight.
Immediately afterwards I began to create the pigeons’ flight in stone. Surprisingly, the stones released ecstasy and joy, even if they are stones attached to a wall. In cities I transformed them into benches, displayed in Corso Vittorio Emanuele in Milan: the City Council bought two benches located next to the Duomo. A friend of mine from Milan called me and said: “Antonio, do you know where I am sitting now? I answered, “I don’t know.” She replied, “on your sculpture in Piazza Duomo in Milan.”
Usually, when long distance races take place, breeders use different techniques to increase the pigeon’s desire to return. They invented “the widower,” meaning they separate the pigeon who has to leave for the race and it’s mate into two different cages for two days, so the separation increases the desire of physical contact. Pigeons are monogamous by nature, they do not pair with others, unless subjected to at least twenty days of separation.
It is my theory, even if wrong, that the mystery of the navigation of homing pigeons is love, therefore, God.