and behold, all is vanity

I’m a real bird! Tweet! Tweet! —@Teutul

“I’m a real bird! Tweet! Tweet!” A pithy pet epithet? Spoken in true budgie form, it may well have been Teutul’s 2002 squawk of the year. Testicular cancer has since taken the bird (and his epic mustache) from us. In lieu of real songs sung by real (feathered) fowl we now have real flying animals trading real TWTR stock on the NYSE: #concisely #commodified.

The pizzazz in 1868 Bremen was no less breezy with Johannes Brahms’ Denn alles fleisch es ist wie gras offering a musical ReTweet of @DeuteroIsaiah‘s 30-odd character jewel. If parrot memes lack staying power, your social media campaign can always rely on grave reminders about mortality. On the other hand, grass tends to come up again in the spring. And the flowers of the field? Their glory is blooming perennial!

“I’m a real bird! Tweet! tweet!” —@Teutul

Whirlygigs, too, participate in all sorts of recurrence, coming up (semi-annually) at you me gallery in Hamilton, Ontario: a veritable smorgasbord of pinwheels, bright colours, rotating knives, defaced currency, flashy chrome, waddling ducks, and other such frivolity. After all these years of wind in the willows (and the trousers) @Fragonard remains fluent in the rhythms of the swing. The fickle muses of whimsy persist.


My own contribution is a twitter-powered web application that attempts (within the constraints of screen real estate and bandwidth) to keep a pulse on global breezes, tornadoes, gales, tempests, and the like. Chosen tweets are allotted a radius, speed, and decay rate to suit. Digital wind, it turns out, takes you to fragile and festooning places alike: from lingering tribute songs for Princess Diana to nimby turbine protest rallies in rural Kent.

I don’t decry the fact that “Let your words be few” has come to mean a 140 character limit. Nor do I resent those residual necks-of-the-woods where it continues to mean “shut up and listen”. The gravity that accompanies a typhoon such as #Soudelor on its way through southeast Asia is the same gravity that keeps you on your feet. Of course our words need not be solitary, poor, nasty, or brutish. But if we keep them short, they may remain ablaze with their own particular poignance. In the spirit of shortness (of breath, of life, and perhaps of tweets), Randy Newman urges us not to be short-loved, while Robin Williams contemplates worm food and the rosebuds of Robert Herrick as a motivation for seizing the day.

Tweets rotate on a screen while Bryce Kanbara and Brian Kelly survey whirlygig setup progress at you me gallery
Tweets rotate on a screen while Bryce Kanbara & Brian Kelly survey setup progress at you me gallery

My own brand of Carpe Deim relies heavily on a PHP code framework at 140dev, as well as jQuery and circleType. When you collaborate, the number of ways to chase the wind increases exponentially. In lieu of Koholeth’s chasing the wind (often framed as a depressing prelude to deeper truths about the fear of God), it occurs to me that there is also a lot of joy in the chase itself. The wind comes and goes where it pleases. But along the way, there is bound to be a human with a turbine (or a twitter account) to celebrate its ferocity. Keep calm and vanitas on.

The semi-annual whirlygig show is on view at you me gallery, 330 James Street North, from Sept 14 (art crawl) – Aug 13 (super crawl weekend). Opening reception: Friday, Sept 14, 7-10 pm. Gallery hours: wed-sun, 12-5pm.


Leave a Reply