Humans, Nature and Birds
From Room 6:  Science Art as Its Own Category


Twittering Machine

Plate 41

modified Twittering Machine

Plate 42

Telling a Story about Birds and Technology

The role of the imagination is readily seen in Paul Klee’s Twittering Machine, but it takes a caption to point out interesting overlaps of science and art. The evocative caption that accompanies New York’s Museum of Modern Art online presentation of the Twittering Machine describes the relationship between birds and machines: “The ‘twittering’ in the title doubtless refers to the birds, while the ‘machine’ is suggested by the hand crank. The two elements are, literally, a fusing of the natural with the industrial world. . . . . Each bird stands with beak open, poised as if to announce the moment when the misty cool blue of night gives way to the pink glow of dawn. The scene evokes an abbreviated pastoral--but the birds are shackled to their perch, which is in turn connected to the hand crank.

“Upon closer inspection, however, an uneasy sensation of looming menace begins to manifest itself. Composed of a wiry, nervous line, these creatures bear a resemblance to birds only in their beaks and feathered silhouettes; they appear closer to deformations of nature. The hand crank conjures up the idea that this ‘machine’ is a music box, where the birds function as bait to lure victims

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Plate 41 Twittering Machine (Zwitscher-Maschine), 1922, 151, by Paul Klee. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. Purchase Fund. Photo credit: Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art. Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY. © 2007 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Plate 42 Drawing Based on a Detail from Paul Klee’s “Twittering Machine” with Sonogram, © 1995/2007 Darryl Wheye.Science Art--Birds.

© 2008 Darryl Wheye and Donald Kennedy