Bird and Turtle

The following is a note from a correspondent member, called Plover, of the Order of the Third Bird, on an image of great interest – captioned “Negation, unspecified Amazonian region, late 19th century.”

bird and turtle
Our correspondent comments:

“There is some discussion about the role played by the turtle in this image; while some believe it to be the object of attending, others maintain that the turtle was in fact part of an experiment to extend the practice to the animal kingdom, the turtle being considered of sufficient slowness to qualify for eventual membership of the Order. The inversion of the turtle remains a mystery, with some interpreting it as an uncharacteristically energetic attempt at negation. Also of interest is the cross-cultural nature of this practice, which some have interpreted as evidence of the universal appeal of bird practice as an antecedent to post-colonialism.”

We submit an additional thought: It is not only the turtle that feels oddly placed and that seems to call attention to itself – insofar as an object might be said to “call” an action, as much as do those who attend upon it, and insofar as an echo of this “call” might persist in a subsequent image. The hat – presumably belonging to the man who is reading – feels almost to have fallen onto the image from above, like a crumb, eyelash, or paper cutout; the same for the palm leaf petiole that seems about to transfix the hat, and for the large folio swaying at the petiole’s tip like a new leaf. The uncanny juxtaposition of the hat, petiole, and folio parallels the mysteries of the action itself.