The installation in the National Gallery heralds the advent on the African continent of Koen Vanmechelen's latest project, the Planetary Community Chicken (PCC). In the museum, the CC2016 is moving across the sand bedding of the Courtauld Gallery. Two large chicken portraits look over their flock; the Mechelse Sulmtaler rooster, 18th generation of Vanmechelen’s Cosmopolitan Chicken Project and a local commercial hen. Chicken coops in the central space of the gallery were built by people from nearby communities in the ancient tradition of Dhaka hut making. Above them looms the future of these communities. Giant nests filled with ‘blown out’ eggs symbolize desire, the process of breeding and breaking free. They suggest the birth of mysterious, unborn identities. Visitors can glimpse this future from the first-floor gallery.
After many years of crossbreeding national chicken species in the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), Vanmechelen launches the Planetary Community Chicken as a response to the positive outcomes of the CCP and as a means of activating his art in the community. By crossing his CCP roosters with local commercial hens, the artist re-connects the universal knowledge stored in the CCP with local heritage and experience. It injects diversity to the local flock and breaks the cycle of potential genetic erosion that is a risk of local inbreeding and of industrial highly efficient mono cultural production. The local chicken provides the necessary characteristics suited for the local environment and resistance to local threats. Together they create an offspring of vital chickens that can provide its host community with eggs and meat.
The animals eat mushrooms grown by Zimbabwean food expert and social entrepreneur Chido Govera and the local communities. Govera’s Harare-based foundation, The Future of Hope, is enabling disadvantaged orphans, women, and communities to lift themselves out of poverty through agriculture. The chicken’s droppings are the breeding soil for the mushrooms while the eggs are collected and sold by the locals. Combined, chickens, mushrooms and eggs constitute a living and life-giving ecosystem that can be managed by the communities. Through this project, Vanmechelen tables questions on the mono cultural approach of centralized industrial farming and makes us reflect on the importance of local, small scale community farming in sustainable food provision.
In the sculpture garden, Vanmechelen's Cosmogolem statue is built; a large wooden structure symbolising liberation and freedom. It becomes part of the worldwide socially-artistic Cosmogolem project with statues in more than 30 countries. The visitors, children and adults alike, are invited to share their hopes and dreams with others by participating in the Cosmogolem workshops that are part of the exhibition.
It is their future, and ours. In this collaboration we are translating the message for diversity and global connectivity into local empowerment. Simultaneously, we are integrating the local heritage, making the local contributions an integrated part of the global storyline.