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A Filth of Starlings (2012)  
    Platform Public Contemporary Art Spaces Melbourne 3rd to 24th August 2012
Degraves Street Subway Melbourne 3000 Australia
(links Flinders Street Station with Degraves Street)
7am-7pm weekdays, 9am-5pm Saturdays, closed Sundays

A huge variety of collective nouns, particularly for groupings of animals, are a characteristic of the English language. These nouns are fascinating and can be very poetic, and some of the versions can be traced back to 15th century Britain, to the Book of St Albans of 1486 by Dame Juliana Barnes, prioress of the nunnery of Sopwell near St Albans. Little is known about the prioress, but it is certain that the book, one of the earliest to be printed, became hugely popular for many years. Today, we are more familiar with some of these collective nouns than others, for example a ‘murder of crows’ is fairly common, but a ‘murmuration of starlings’ less so. An aviary, flight, flock or menagerie of birds makes sense, but a crossing, a raft, a pull or a bench of birds does not seem to. Some of the nouns have an obvious basis in animal behaviour but many do not. Language evolves and changes, and words and meanings change or are forgotten over time.

    Numerousness and close proximity are two of the reasons many of us dislike common urban birds, so highlighting these collective nouns and their long history could add an intriguing twist to our relationship with these birds and how we might consider them in light of other, older attitudes. For the Platform cases I produced easily read lists of these collective nouns in a highly visible part of the city commuter route. In total there were about 80 collective nouns used. These are birds that passengers are highly likely to see in Melbourne (and indeed most cities around the world) as they exit Flinders and Degraves Streets on their daily round.  
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Corvus corvix, Corvus corvix, Corvus corvix, Corvus albicollis,