Vulture Culture

Fall. The season to give thanks. To the Turkey Vultures. The ones that hover over Miami every year, that originate from God only knows where, and that make it their business to remind us yet again of what evil lurks in the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. Namely the embodiment of evil in a suit: lawyers. Yes, attorneys, the only breed that can be likened to the vile beast that picks apart corpses for kicks.

The turkey vultures have come South for the winter. Such odd birds. And for the second year in a row a different group of odd birds -- a posse of local artists -- will pay tribute to the homely creatures with a lunchtime ceremony dubbed Vulture Vida: The Carrion Carnival, The Buzzard Blast this Friday on the courthouse steps. Led by ringleader/visual artist William Keddell, who was inspired by his friend, MDCC professor, artist, and long-time vulture admirer Marilyn Gottlieb-Roberts, they did it last year, two days before the buzzards had even arrived. Back then, says Keddell, the highlight was a surprise performance by modern dancer Helena Thevenot, who emerged from a Flagler Street parking lot in "whiteface with bones hanging from her." Keddell recalls: "She came across Flagler in this sort of Japanese-theater gestural slowness. She took four or five minutes to cross, and came up to the center part of the steps. She broke an egg, looked skyward, and did this weird shriek, and then went down the steps, and across Flagler again, back to the car park. The guards from all the buildings came to help her across the street. They watched in horror. But the drivers weren't honking. They were sort of like 'What is this?'"

This year the birds are already back in town, yet Keddell, a New Zealander who's lived in Miami since 1990, took it upon himself to organize another commemoration. Although he refuses to speculate on what might top the unforgettable vulture dance, he promises plenty of interesting goings-on. (One artist will exhibit a work made with the hip medium of the moment, animal droppings; this time, though, it's vulture dung.) Keddell also guarantees that a good time will be had by all, even the suits. "I'm not against lawyers," he assures. "I think that the profession does have its ambulance chasers, which is what vultures are in a sense. But at least they [the birds] wait till people are dead! It [the celebration] is all in fun, and lawyers can laugh at it, too."