Energy/Mass exhibition by Koen Vanmechelen in Detroit


Until 17 December, the Energy/Mass exhibition by the Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen, originating from Sint-Truiden, will be housed at Wasserman Projects, Eastern Market, Detroit. It is marking a new stage in the artist’s Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP).

Nothing is what it seems. That is one of the numerous lessons to be drawn from the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), a worldwide programme started by visual artist Koen Vanmechelen in 1998 implying the crossbreeding of regional and national chicken species. In his opinion, each successive  generation of hybrids is more resilient than the previous pure breed generation. It lives longer, combats illness more effectively and shows less aggressive behavior. The final result of several generations of crossbreeding is a true Cosmopolitan Chicken, combining genes of all chicken breeds.  The starting point for all those breeds was the Red Junglefowl. Its descendants were all developed by human intervention and infertile. Vanmechelen takes a new starting point with an example of crossbreeding.

His work is as varied and hybrid as the Cosmopolitan Chicken : a unique mixture of painting, drawing, photography, video, innovative 3D techniques, art installations and wooden sculptures. Central themes are the chicken and the egg. The essence of the project is neither the chicken, nor the egg, but the crossbreeding and the diversity that comes from it. The Cosmopolitan Chicken reflects our existence. Each organism needs other organisms in order to survive. Vanmechelen perceives the chicken as a metaphor for the human being and the egg as a metaphor for the world and as the laboratory for the future. The egg is a protected environment and a source of life ; but it is also a cage we have to get out of. The result of crossbreeding is often uncertain. Hence, the CCP is also a response to progress, an eternally unfinished work of art of which the final issue remains an open question. His objective is to symbolise the future : it’s the starting point for a new evolution pattern that will never come to a halt, a continuous form of diversification and genetic recombination. This  project can be summarised in the symbiosis of art, science, philosophy, politics and ethics. It is the way Vanmechelen perceives the existential questions of individual identity and life ; as well as the current questions of globalization, racism, genetic modification and cloning. 

Every year, Vanmechelen introduces a new species to the CCP, that celebrates its 20th birthday this year. For this exhibition, the 19th generation of the Mechelse Cemani chicken was bred with the American Wyandotte in order to create the 20th generation of the Mechelse Wyandotte, which holds aspects of DNA from 20 different breeds from across the five continents. Thus Wasserman Projects will be able to present a new phase of the CCP by the artist Koen Vanmechelen. This exhibition, containing the artist’s 2d and 3d artworks as well as the living CCP chickens, reveils his commitment by ideas of singularity/duality mixing metaphoric representations of chickens and eggs. The  Energy/Mass exhibition in Detroit will be open until 17 December.