Douglas Huebler




On March 17, 1969 during a ten minutes walk Douglas Huebler (American conceptual artist 1924 - 1997) made ten photographs, each documenting the location in Central Park where an individually distinguishable birdcall was heard. Each photograph was made with the camera pointing in the direction of the sound, and then walking on that direction until the instant that the next call was heard, at which time the next photograph was made and the next direction taken.

There are no birds in the print photos, even less sound; this piece (Duration Piece # 5) is one of the few cases in the history of images in which a sound image is created without the sound represented in a synesthetic way. It works like Lichtenberg´s bladeless knife with the handle missing, is the image of a bird singing in which there is no song and no bird.

It is impossible to know if the photos were taken following the statement, or if it is a lie created by Huebler with the intention to convince us. If it is true, I mean if the procedure coincides with the statement, it is also impossible to know what sound originated each photo.

It is documented that in March can be seen around 200 species of birds in Central Park, from those, 134 are extremely rare and 30 others unlikely, this leaves 37 species of birds that could originated the photos. Of these, 8 are ducks and other 6 species are so big that they would have appeared in the image. Of the remaining 23 species, 6 are not usually found at the site where the photos were taken.

The almanac records that the average weather on Monday March 17 in the area of Central Park in New York was 6.5 ° C. so it is likely that the Dark-eye junco (Junco hyemalis), the Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) and the Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) did not sang that day. In sighting records of that year there are no reports of any Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), Rock Dove (Columba livia), or Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). That leaves 10 different species of birds; perhaps each of them is responsible for each of the photographs taken by Huebler:


American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) 

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 


Note: Consulting Phil Jeffrey (structural biologist, researcher in the department of molecular biology at Princeton University and birder in Central Park since 1998) says: "It is really impossible to know, but if I had to make a wild a guess, I'd say it was a white-throated sparrow "the detonator bird of Huebler photographs.