Call it ‘Williams-bird’! Artist plasters neighborhood with flying friends

Call it ‘Williams-bird’! Artist plasters neighborhood with flying friends
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Swedish artist Erik Berglin is turning Williamsburg into his own personal aviary, posting colorful stickers of native and exotic birds on buildings, signs, and lampposts throughout the area.

Berglin gravitated toward fowl as his artistic milieu based on his admiration for the animal which he views as a “a natural part of the urban life.”

“Birds are one of the only types of wild animals, other than rats, that have adapted to urban society and have made the city their own,” said Beglin.

And like his feathered friends, Beglin has been adapting to the neighborhoods where he has been posting them over the past five years, distinguishing himself from ubiquitous graffiti that masquerades as street art.

“Most street artists try to repeat a pattern or symbol to get recognition, but I didn’t want to do that concept,” said Berglin, adding, “My birds basically are the same as anything else you will find in public space, like stickers or graffiti, but my project is so much better then everything else you see in the street.”

He photocopies shots from field guides and downloads copyrighted images from the Internet and adds an adhesive before spending several hours surveying a block to find the perfect location to post his tweets.

After he finds a spot, whether it’s a corner of a second-story building or the foot of a lamp post, Berglin works for just 10 to 20 seconds before fleeing.

He’s taking a big risk — police have arrested 763 individuals for posting graffiti in Brooklyn so far this year, including 164 in Williamsburg and Greenpoint alone.

Berglin has never been arrested himself, despite putting up more than 3,000 stickers since 2006, but he has had a few close calls.

But street artists say the rewards are worth it — and that art in the street make the neighborhood more beautiful.

“His work is placed well in the public space,” said artist NohJColey. “I’m sure he could be arrested for this, but it all depends on the arresting officer and how the artist handles the situation.”

Beglin understands that some may see his project as twee — such as the kind of artmaking venture mercilessly ridiculed in “Portlandia,” a cable show whose video, “Put a Bird on It” has been seen more than 800,000 times on youtube.

He says he’s in on the joke.

“I’d like to think that this is not as shallow as that but maybe in one sense it is,” said Berglin. “Maybe I should put up pigs instead.”

Classic designs include toucans, owls, and those really colorful birds that we don’t know the names of.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini