Striking (Up) Interspecies Collaborations with Crows and Falcons

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Associate Professor Cecilia Novero


This essay discusses two different kinds of human collaboration with wildlife. First, I consider the short non-fictional text Krähengekrächz (2016) by German author Monika Maron. Second, I look at young artist Hara Walther’s body of work, including her falconry, work she performs with her animal companion Sicilia.1 I deem both creative engagements to be two distinct yet related cases of zoopoetics (more on this below).2

Maron’s text is an incomplete and tentative account (in German Erzählung) of her attempts at striking up a friendship with a crow in the Berlin neighbourhood where she lives. As the writer announces at the outset, her experiment in interspecies companionship is initially in the service of a planned novel featuring a crow among its main characters.3 However, as I shall argue, while explicitly conceived with such an agenda in mind, precisely by following the crow’s movements, Maron’s text strays from such a goal –or map– but rather follows what Thom van Dooren might call the crow’s “interjections”. For Van Dooren, an interjection involves an interruption of the status quo, a getting in between what is and what might be, whether verbally or bodily, in an effort to realize something different, to propose an alternative configuration of how we may get on together.4 Indeed, Maron’s text functions as one such interjection itself, for, in being “recruited” by the crows, the narrative breaks away from any specific genre. As I hope to make clear below, this story or rather collection of stories is less the result of the author’s intention than a meandering response to the crows’ own experimental gestures in the emergent interspecies contact zone where woman and crows meet.5

Walther’s art is the offspring of her long partnership with Sicilia. For example, Walther has created colouring books for children, books she uses to teach falconry in her school Falconette, as well as watercolour paintings and assemblages with materials acquired during her hunts with Sicilia.6 Her art is made of markings that, as is the case in Maron’s text, are neither authorial nor authoritative. In contrast, her art follows the trail left by her wild animal companion and collects the traces as gifts. Issues of creativity, vulnerability, and impermanence punctuate the joyous gestures of cobecoming in Walther’s work. For this artist, therefore, falcon and human are creatively joined in the everyday practices of falconry, teaching, and art.

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Author Biography

Associate Professor Cecilia Novero, University of Otago

Cecilia Novero is Associate Professor of German, European Studies and Global Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand. After publishing Antidiets of the Avant-Garde (UMP 2010), Cecilia’s research has turned to Animal Studies. She focuses on the ways in which animals have been represented in European literature and visual culture including, but not limited to, cinema and contemporary art. Cecilia is on the Editorial Boards of the Animal Studies Journal, Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture, and The Journal of Avant-Garde Studies. She is also a co-editor, with Dr Peter Barton and Dr August Obermayer, of the series of volumes Otago German Studies.