For many years anthropocentric methodologies in science and philosophy and entrenched human exceptionalism have allowed most people to insist that only humans possess self-consciousness or any higher awareness. The birds in this sculpture represent European Magpies (Pica pica), one of the few species — alongside elephants, dolphins, orcas and primates (including humans and bonobos) — now known to have passed the Mirror Test, an experiment thought to be able to prove a species is self conscious.
Though the test itself certainly has anthropocentric bias (it truly tests only whether animals understand and are interested in a reflection of themselves, something that may be irrelevant to a highly intelligent species that uses smell as it's primary sense, for example), it has challenged scientific norms with the “proof” that a species of bird is self-aware—something once reserved only for us "exceptional" human beings. It is my belief that we will find complex self-awareness in many, if not all, species of mammals and birds, or at the very least in those with social tendencies. And it is certainly time to fully dismantle Descartes' declaration that animals are feeling-less automata, a concept with allows human beings to rationalize the instrumentalization these others for our own purposes—rather than recognize animals as fellow nations on this Earth, worthy of our respect, admiration and perhaps even friendship.