Fake “Canned Parrot” Display Causes Stir In San Francisco

Commentary on people's obsession with local foods makes some residents angry.

Sometimes art can be powerful, forcing us to think about how we look at the world. It doesn? always work, but the best images are powerful and touch our hearts for better or for worse.

But sometimes, art, and its social commentary, doesn’t always work. When when it comes to the fake “canned parrot meat,?it seems to just aggravate people instead. 

Though not real, the cans advertising “boiled parrot in gravy” and “free-range cherry conure in their own syrup” strike a tone of disgust in not only this parrot lover, but people in general. The display is part of a store called Terrific Street, a yet-to-be-open store in the North Beach neighborhood in San Francisco. Julie Herrod, a native of the North Beach area, told Hoodline.com, that it was “the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in North Beach in the 25 years I’ve lived here.”

San Francisco is home to a flock of naturalized parrots known as the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill live. They are mostly cherry-headed conures and some blue-headed conures. These parrots became famous because of Mark Bittner, a man who wrote a book and produced a movie on them. (You can read his original article on the birds he wrote for BIRD TALK magazine here.) 

Brady Baltezore, graphic designer and filmmaker, who took credit for the storefront, told Hoodline that Terrific Street will be, “a curated modern general store for the neighborhood, with a creative, craft and art focus … it’ll be sort of a neighborhood clubhouse, with a retail angle … The idea is to sell branded Terrific Street merchandise, as well as magazines, souvenirs, knick-knacks and ?seful things for people who live in the neighborhood.?

The display is supposed to be a commentary on the trend of people being obsessed with figuring out where their food comes from, he told HyperAllergic.

“We thought, ‘How funny would it be to create an installation that made it look like we were going to open a hyperlocal, hyper-sustainable business that was using the most hyperlocal food item?'” Baltezore told Hoodline.

In an email to HyperAllerigic, Baltezore said, “It? an artistic comment on trends around ?yperlocal,?etc., but also a play on food sourcing in general. For instance, I think it? preposterous to take any more offense to this project than you might to the plight of chickens in the US, who lead nasty, short, brutal lives so that we can all enjoy 99-cent chicken bits at the slightest whim. I don? see a gradient when it comes to values placed on different creaturesŠI feel it? important to know that the thing you?e eating died in order for you to do so. If you?e comfortable with that, then bon appetit.”

Still, some like Herrod, don? see the humor in the display. “I recognized the art reference to Warhol,” she told Hoodline, “but the humor was simply eluding me. The purpose and the point was eluding me, other than to be hurtful and harmful to the neighborhood … They?e viciously attacking a beloved North Beach icon, and I don? find it acceptable. Why denigrate your own community? Deliberately disgracing the parrots is an obvious attack on North Beach.”

Others just think it? hardly art. “It is supposed to be concept art,” Bittner told ABC News. “But to me I just thought it was like little boy humor.”

Others of course, see the humor and the satire in it.

No parrots were harmed in the making of the display, Baltezore said. “We love parrots … In this era, there? a little too much emphasis on what people? reaction is to art, rather than enjoying it on its own merits.”

So, what do you think? Art or not? Let us know in the comments.

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