Birds attacking new stone sculpture at Leicester University site
A murder of crows has singled out an artist's latest sculpture for some very harsh criticism.
Agitated birds have been attacking a recently installed work by Simon Hitchens at Leicester University's Harold Martin Botanic Garden, in Oadby.
It is thought the creatures have been enraged by their own reflections in a 7ft stainless steel screen in front of a limestone monolith that make up a piece called In the Eye of the Beholder.
The screen's once-smooth surface has now been left covered in scratches.
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A university spokesman said: "Each of the other 16 sculptors' works has remained unscathed.
"This leads us to suspect the crows had become enraged by their own reflections."
Ian Hayward, an RSPB wildlife adviser, said: "This is behaviour typical of the carrion crow.
"They will have seen these mirror images as intruders and attacked with great ferocity. They are quite vicious in defence of their territory."
After hearing about the scratches to the screen, artist Simon said he had considered removing the piece from the Interesting Times exhibition.
"My first reaction was frustration," he said.
"The piece works so well if the mirrored surface is pristine and you are not aware of its materiality, only the reflection within it.
"I decided that the physical interaction by the birds brings another, unexpected element to the work and I'm interested to see how our understanding of the piece changes during the exhibition because of this avian interaction.
"Normally my pieces sit in a serene and contemplative state – all well and good, but in this instance I like the sense of not knowing how this interaction will alter the understanding of the work.
"It now has a bit of 'edge'."
He said he had exhibited the piece twice before and only had one incident with a chaffinch.
Almuth Tebbenhoff, the exhibition's curator, said: "We usually walk up to a mirror with the desire to have our own beauty reflected back to us and we react accordingly with delight, despair or resignation. We are generally too civilised to go and attack the mirror if we don't like what we see.
"What the birds saw was their own aggression reflected back and, lacking the experience of such surfaces, took it for something coming from the outside.
"As their fury escalated, they saw their reflections get more and more aggressive. Isn't this how wars start?"
The piece will remain in the botanic garden for the four-month duration of the exhibition.
Entry to the exhibition, in Glebe Road, Oadby, is normally free.