This bird is covered with the paper insert from an Advair asthma inhaler. My husband and daughter both have asthma and use an inhaler occasionally, so it is easy for me to collect the inserts and they have been a part of my life for many years now. I am fascinated with the long lists of symptoms and side effects on medical inserts, as well as the chemical structures they sometimes include. It seemed obvious to use the inserts to cover birds - canaries in a coal mine, as it were, for various common diseases and medical conditions.
But when I started finding empty cigarette packs in my neighborhood, I made the (perhaps obvious) connection between Eric Garner and the asthma inhaler inserts. So I created a pedestal out of the empty packs, turning the Advair bird into a monument to invisible, and sometimes deadly, afflictions (physical or societal).
Who knows whether Eric Garner would have survived being choked by the police if he hadn't had asthma. But he was supposedly selling cigarettes illegally when he was stopped by police. And, ironically, he suffered from asthma and was already out of breath from reportedly helping break up a fight earlier. His obesity added to the stress on his body, as well.
But beyond the literal connections among cigarettes, asthma, and inhalers, I find myself thinking often recently about Eric Garner's death while repeatedly saying "I can't breathe." It is a metaphor for the overwhelming odds against success that many black men face in the US. Pressures, literal and figurative, on their bodies and minds make it so difficult for them to be seen for who they are and live as accepted and respected beings in a society that seems to be looking only for reasons to fear them.