Art That Makes You Go Hmmm: Taking Tweets to a Whole New Level

Our era is a wonderful time. We now live in a world where people’s intrinsic need to communicate has finally been met with boundless platforms for expression. On the flip side, it has left us with decreased attention spans, a serious case of information overload, and a steadily intensifying need to say something—anything.

There are some, however, who can’t be asked to fight for a place in cyberspace. Instead, they’ve been tweeting old school, all over my hood.

They’ve caught my attention with an iconic post, dubbed the “Listen Bird.” It’s a recurring image of a simply drawn bird with a speech bubble containing the word “Listen.”

Listen BirdIt’s often been interpreted as a criticism of our refusal to listen to nature’s cry for help. Though I second this reading, when I first saw it, I immediately thought of Twitter. I saw it as a protest against the modern profusion of social media—a reaction to our growing infatuation with ourselves and our insatiable need to have our say, as well as a lament over the dying art of listening.

But as I walked around my area today, snapping shots to include in this blog, I realized that there wasn’t just one message coming out of this bird’s beak!

On a mailbox it’s chirping “Slap this,” by a parking lot “Eat more bacon!” and under the Ville-Marie expressway “Goin’ to hell.”

According to the Internet, this bird has been around since the ’80s and has been spotted all over Canada. Evidently this isn’t the handy work of a single artist. By joining forces, they seem to have taken tweeting to a whole new level!

The last of its tweets, and my favourite to date, has the bird calling out “Farewell St-Henri” from an alleyway.

This one, I feel, deserves a bit of a closer listen. As you’ll have now gathered, I live in St-Henri. This is a neighbourhood where condos sprout like weeds and businesses open and shut in the blink of an eye.

Here chi-chi antique shops and trendy coffee houses are steadily gobbling up the moms-and-pops, the shady massage parlours, and the dubious taverns with large tinted windows—all staples of a former era.

Perhaps it’s a comment about the changing face of St-Henri. Then again, perhaps the bird just wants to say goodbye, before flying off to greener pastures—or whiter walls.

Window GraffitiRegardless, what’s amazing is that the Listen Bird has succeeded in cutting through the cacophonous world of graffiti art and creating a voice that resonates.

You see, even these anonymous scribes have to compete with an astonishing amount of chatter. St-Henri is full of graffiti—here, no surface is sacred, not even the exterior of your living room windows!

So, what makes this lone bird’s voice stand out? Well, first of all, it’s simple and clear. Much as I appreciate the art form, most graffiti reads like pure gibberish. Though I am sure the authors have something important to say, what their message is and who it is aimed at is very unclear.

Secondly, this bird knows its audience. Choosing to speak on such a large-scale platform as a city’s walls is choosing one of the broadest audiences out there. The public is more likely to tune in—and stay tuned—to a message that is open to interpretation and that grants them a place in the conversation.

I too am an anonymous scribe (translator) toiling daily in the field of communication. I am inspired by the bird’s wisdom. Its lessons ring true to the mantras of my profession: Keep it simple, consider your audience, and never forget that communication is a two-way stweet.

Listen Bird 2




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