Some artists are willing to do anything for their masterpieces, including risking their freedom. American Duke Riley is one such artist. He walks the fine line between legal and illegal in his new project called “Trading with the Enemy” which involves smuggling cigars from Cuba to Key West using pigeons specially trained for this shady task.
For “Trading with the Enemy,” Riley, who makes a living as a tattoo artist, started off by training 50 birds. Some were taught to carry cigars from Cuba to their destination – which, if you don’t already know by now, is illegal, and some were given special cameras to document their trip back and forth over the boarder. The spying equipment was engineered by Riley himself who worked for several years to make them as light as possible so the pigeon’s wouldn’t even notice them. According to the New York Times, the artist’s concept was a commentary on “the long history of pirating on the southern border.” Riley also wanted to dismiss the government’s very expensive high-tech spying gear by using homing pigeons instead of drones. “I wanted to subvert this billions-of-dollars high-tech system with things that were being used in ancient Sumeria. A lot of the work I do seeks to create some sense of possibility or empowerment, in a humorous and romanticized way, using the simplest means possible,” Riley says.