CULTURE

Is the "Mythmaker" Behind Pizza Rat Putting Cowboy Hats on Pigeons in Las Vegas?

The viral artist has made a name for herself with strange animal stunts, but does this latest one fit her MO?

In what world do pigeons wear cowboy hats?

Is it a world more beautiful than ours? A world where despised and filthy pests that inhabit our cities are recognized as–instead of scruffy outlaws—handsome little loners who puff out their chests and play by their own rules? All it took for the world to fall in love with a rat was to see it struggling to drag a slice of pizza down some stairs. So if a pigeon is a rat with wings, what then does a Pizza Rat with wings look like? A Cowboy Pigeon?

If Zardulu is behind the latest viral animal story out of Las Vegas, these are the kinds of questions over-serious art critics may soon be asking. As for Zardulu herself, she is a mysterious figure. She projects a sort of voodoo witch persona, but a more accurate description would place her somewhere between Banksy and one of those guys with a pet snake who charges tourists for pictures.

Pigeons Wearing Tiny Cowboy Hats Spotted in Las Vegas www.youtube.com

For a start, no one knows her face or her real name. When she allows herself to be photographed, she is always in an elaborate, wizardly costume, with her face covered by an unsettling mask or a macabre headdress. It remains unclear whether she's actually responsible for all the events she's claimed as her work, and what other work she's done that has gone unnoticed. We don't even know if she is truly a single person, or some kind of artist collective. And is "artist" even the right term?

Some have called her a performance artist, but what is her performance? In one sense you could point to training a rat to drag a slice of pizza down a staircase as a sort of performance, but that is only one aspect of her art. As an act on its own, that would hardly rank as a reject on America's Got Talent. Is she, as her Twitter bio claims, a "Sorcerer. Soothsayer. Painter. Sculptor. Writer. Disinformation Artist." Or is the better title for Zardulu the one she's chosen as her epithet: the Mythmaker. Because her real art was in making that rat go viral—making us pawns in spreading her work, and making us believe in 2015's Pizza Rat.

pizza rat Youtube

It had to be presented as a natural phenomenon observed and captured by happenstance. She couldn't take credit for it until after culture had already reacted. As a result, most people who've heard of Pizza Rat have no idea there was a person responsible at all—likewise for her lesser-known viral works, Selfie Rat and Raccoon Riding an Alligator. Perhaps that's why the newest strange animal story to go viral maintains a necessary air of mystery while erasing any doubt that there's a person responsible. Is Zardulu the one putting tiny cowboy hats on pigeons in Las Vegas?

Selfie rat snaps a photo www.youtube.com

If so, it's certainly an effectively viral moment. The pigeons look legitimately adorable in those hats, in a way that Pizza Rat could never hope to. On the other hand, if Zardulu is responsible, this might join the ranks of her unclaimed works, because there are both legal and ethical concerns. Does this qualify as animal cruelty? It's not clear how many pigeons have been cowboyed or what means were used to secure the hats to their heads. If glue was used, it could damage their skin or feathers, and regardless of how they're attached, as long as the pigeons are wearing tiny cowboy hats, their flight is likely impeded, and they may draw extra attention from predators.

Animal rescue workers from a pro-pigeon organization called Lofty Hopes are struggling to catch these pigeons in order to relieve the pigeons of their headwear. But if this is the work of Zardulu—and she decides to claim it—I suspect we'll find out that these are domesticated pigeons and that the hats will be safely and easily removed.

zardulu Sky News

Zardulu, we await your next proclamation.

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