"AN AVIARY WHICH HE HAS CONSTRUCTED"



“The white streaks you see in this image are in fact birds"

Fatal Light Awareness Program

SOCRATES: Well, may not a man ‘possess’ and yet not ‘have’ knowledge in the sense of which I am speaking? As you may suppose a man to have caught wild birds—doves or any other birds—and to be keeping them in an aviary which he has constructed at home; we might say of him in one sense, that he always has them because he possesses them, might we not?

THEAETETUS: Yes.

SOCRATES: And yet, in another sense, he has none of them; but they are in his power, and he has got them under his hand in an enclosure of his own, and can take and have them whenever he likes;—he can catch any which he likes, and let the bird go again, and he may do so as often as he pleases.

THEAETETUS: True.

SOCRATES: Once more, then, as in what preceded we made a sort of waxen figment in the mind, so let us now suppose that in the mind of each man there is an aviary of all sorts of birds—some flocking together apart from the rest, others in small groups, others solitary, flying anywhere and everywhere.

THEAETETUS: Let us imagine such an aviary—and what is to follow?

SOCRATES: We may suppose that the birds are kinds of knowledge, and that when we were children, this receptacle was empty; whenever a man has gotten and detained in the enclosure a kind of knowledge, he may be said to have learned or discovered the thing which is the subject of the knowledge: and this is to know.
Plato, Theaetetus


Bibliothèque nationale de France

…hundreds of pigeons and thousands of starlings have taken possession of the central garden of the National Library of France in Paris. [...] The detour is problematic because the birds, blinded by the reflection of the sun, crash into the glass surface. “We don’t have to be afraid for the building, assures Gérard Bailly, the person in charge of the security of the BNF.
For visitors, on the other hand, the scene isn’t really heartening.[...]

The BNF hence asked a company to frighten away the birds [...] 124 birds have died smashed against the towers of the BNF. Among them 110 ring doves and 6 woodcocks.
-20 Minutes

And Several times, said Austerlitz, birds which had lost their way in the library forest flew into the mirror images of the trees in the reading-room windows, struck the glass with a dull thud and fell lifeless to the ground. Sitting at my place in the reading-room, said Austerlitz, I thought at length about the way in which such unforseen accidents, the fall of a single creature to its death when diverted from its natural path, or the recurrent symptoms of paralysis affecting the electronic data retrieval system, relate to the Cartesian overall plan of the Bibliotheque Nationale, and I came to the conclusion that in any project we design and develop, the size and degree of complexity of the information and control systems inscribed in it are the crucial factors, so that the all-embracing and absolute perfection of the concept can in practice coincide, indeed ultimately must coincide, with its chronic dysfunction…
-W.G.Sebald – Austerlitz