Angelization of Birds, Birdization of People, and the Monumentalization and Idealization of the Family

Ernst was researching for years the alchemical (psychological) process of the transformation of human beings into birds. Birdization of human psyche under the influence of a predatorily competitive socio-political environment is a real process when by appearance people still look human but internally, psychologically they have already lost all humanity. In Ernst’s “Monument to the Birds” the bird family is this organic (not just the mental) metaphor of the condition of human beings monumentalized and dehumanized into birds.

In parallel with studying birdization of human soul Ernst in many paintings worked over the representation of the transformation of humans into earthly beasts (“The Barbarians”) or into hybrid forms (“Angel of the Hearth”) but the bird as an archetypal image orienting human transformation/dehumanization seems to have a very important advantage over beasts: here the human desire to elevate themselves through self-aggrandizement is also emphasized together with the bestial tendency of becoming more predatory. Sometimes Ernst’s beasts and monsters have a touch of bird-likeness. To be the lord of the sky means to be above the earthly world and as such the lord of the earth as well, but at the same time to be, as if, more sublime.

Ernst’s painting can be also named “Family Values Elevated to the Sky”. We see father-the conqueror (with the chest of the warrior) who is solemnly observing the skies, mother-the-timid (as if an appendix to father) and the neglectful of children, and the chicks already fighting for domination and survival. The position of the bird-woman behind her bird-husband and both of them proudly topping over their children are paradigmatic for patriarchal structure of social and family life. Because in a patriarchal universe the belief in sky as the heaven must be reborn with each generation the images of (unconsciously) idealized parents become the psychological “flesh” of how people imagine supernatural powers. Like our psychological reactions on the parents in our babyhood and childhood later become the structure of our reactions on the superhuman figures, our attempts to imagine the superhuman might and super-human grace become mixed with the early images of real parents. Psychological confusion between two worlds – bird-skyish and earthly, becomes the factor of how we imagine both worlds the superhuman and human. The perception of our social leaders is colored by our unconscious pop-beliefs in their super-human extraordinariness and infallibility.

Combination of aggrandizement (being put to the sky/heaven) and dehumanization (transformation into birds, semi-birds or beast-birds) is Ernst’s formula of extreme human psychological degradation which he observed from the beginning to the middle of 20th century and we ourselves observe today in US, in no less dense doses in Bushmerican/tea-baggers’ political maneuvers.

Having the ability of being suspended in the air is a metaphor of maniacal self-glory (with a connotation of irresponsibility felt as freedom from earthly limitations), which the leaders of Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and Spain, and today’s American neo-conservative politicians and financial decision-makers carry inside. In Ernst’s terms all these people have beastly-earthly, monstrous-pervert, and bird-airy elements in their souls. They have the psychotic need to feel themselves as figures of monumental proportions (globalist or/and cosmic aspirations and association with super-human knowledge and power is always part of the picture) because they have been fed on the fuel of super-money, extra-power, subhuman servility of enthusiastic pop-worshipers and silent obedience of philistines-conformists.

We see that Ernst expresses here not only the fact of monstrous mutation of human soul into another specie, but he shows the very need of human beings to monumentalize/aggrandize themselves as an unconscious motivation for such transformation – the majestic bird-family as if forever stands in the middle of the air, amidst the heaven in all regality of its armor.