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The Tragedy of the Fallen Crows
Editorial by: Sherif Goubran

The art installation titled Where the Rubber Meets the Road was created by artist Gerard Beaulieu in 2018. The piece was created for the annual Arts in the Open Festival held in Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), which happens in August each year. It was then commissioned by the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown (PEI) to stay during the winter – until spring 2018. The installation was located outside the entrance of the aforementioned gallery.

The art installation consists of two larger than life crows made from used car tires: each is about 5 meters long and weighing more than 360 kg. The installation shines a light and makes visible the impact of wildlife-vehicle collisions.

The sculptures can be understood as public memorials to something that is normally never memorialized: roadkill. By monumentalizing the figure of the fallen crow, the sculptures transform the way that bird and other animal corpses are normally seen – as roadside trash or debris. The deaths of thousands of birds become, through art, something heroic and tragic. [1]

The artist explains further in an interview with Wanda Baxter (who developed the Watch for Wildlife program): “It is not uncommon to see crows eating the consequences of our commuting, and roadkill makes a substantial contribution to their diet. As scavengers, it is what they do: clean up a lot of our mess. One of the risks of scavenging is being hit by vehicles, which doubles the impact of collisions. In that sense, the crows don’t just represent ‘roadkill’, but also the layers of the impacts of driving". [1]

The materiality of the rubber tires enabled the artist to create a prominent level of detail and realism. The artist adds that: “Often when I do my works the materials are the metaphors, so the tires are exactly the cause of the catastrophe". [2]

The installation strikes a perfect balance between bringing attention to the impacts of driving and transportation infrastructure on wildlife without turning people away. Their size makes them very visible in the urban landscape. The level of details and their wide-open eyes transmit a strong message –that the way we live and move impinges directly on the ability of nature to survive. [1]

The installation is a clear example of how art, and its practice, can deliver an ecological lesson to a wide audience, can augment the conversation around the complex human-natural interactions, and make visible, on both the physical and emotional levels, the human impact on other beings.

The starry eyes of the crows lay a guilt trip on the viewers – be them, children or adults – for roadkill. On the other hand, killing animals or birds on the road is typically a shocking and emotionally dreadful experience for most drivers – one that they experience against their will and desire. It remains unclear what Beaulieu’s crows did beyond projected, or re-projecting, guilt.

Can one dare to ask if the drivers are blameworthy for their unintentional killings?


[1] Baxter, Wanda. “Where the Rubber Meets the Road Artist Gerald Beaulieu’s Road-Killed Crows Are Too Big to Ignore.” Wildlife-vehicle Collision Prevention Program. Watch for Wildlife (W4W), November 18, 2018. http://www.watchforwildlife.ca/blog/roadkilledcrows-gbeaulieusactivistart-bywandabaxter.
[2] Yarr, Kevin. “Roadkill Crows Installed Outside Confederation Centre Art Gallery.” CBC News. CBC/Radio Canada, October 9, 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-roadkill-crows-art-gallery-1.4855138.

Project Title: Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Gerard Beaulieu
Place: Charlottetown, PEI

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