The Cosmopolitan Culture Park is the largest part of LABIOMISTA. Here, visitors encounter the elements central to Koen Vanmechelen's oeuvre: nature, animals and art. A network of walking trails that float above the surface guides them from the tamed/domesticated world into a rugged, untouched and untamed one - and then back. In the meantime, visitors can acquaint themselves with the various animal species that play an essential, inspirational role in the artist's work. Various animal pairs are brought together in three compounds, each approximately 1 ha in size. The animals represent the diversity that typifies our world. Together with the animals, plants, fungi and other living organisms already present, they form a new ecosystem.
The animals, which include camels, ostriches, llamas, emus, rheas and alpacas, can roam freely throughout most of the compounds, allowing them to develop their own hierarchical structures and natural systems. This provides visitors with an insight into the biological needs, the diversity and the daily life of the animals. The barriers between the animal compounds mainly consist of natural elements. Where necessary, minimal fencing has been installed, taking care not to disturb the sense of open space throughout the park. Central to the park are Koen Vanmechelen's 'living artworks', including his famous Cosmopolitan Chicken Project and the Planetary Community Chicken. Last but not least, the Cosmopolitan Culture Park also allows visitors to encounter a number of Koen Vanmechelen's sculptures and installations, including the Cosmogolem: a 9.5-m-tall open head made of marble and steel, a symbol of children's rights.
The design and construction were performed by BURO Landschap, a Belgian firm specialising in landscape planning, urban design and technology, in collaboration with Koen Vanmechelen and the city of Genk. After the zoo was closed, the fences and animal cages were removed from the premises. This gave the park the chance to recover naturally, which helped create a unique landscape.
• Design: Buro Landschap (Tongeren)
• Scenography: Voet en De Brabandere, executed by Casa Vero
• Installations and artworks by Koen Vanmechelen: Cosmogolem, Joy and Wisdom, Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, Planetary Community Chicken, LIFEBANK, MECC
Walking in the Cosmopolitan Culture Park, you’ll soon discover the head of the CosmoGolem. This is the first and for the time being the only stone version of the giant who symbolises children's rights. A sculpture 10 metres tall, constructed out of twenty-five marble blocks that together weigh more than 400 tons. An open head; here, your thoughts can be free, here there’s room for a critical mind.
The CosmoGolem project wants to give a voice and an identity to children born in less fortunate circumstances. The project exudes hope and faith in the future. So far, over 40 CosmoGolems have been built around the world. From Zimbabwe to Belgium, from India to Ecuador, the CosmoGolem gives children's rights a face.
The coordinating ngo CosmoGolem has two honorary members: human rights activist Jeanne Devos and child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens. Read more about the Cosmogolem project in the Library of Collected Knowledge.
This park is a reverse zoo. Llamas, alpacas, dromedaries, chickens, rheas, emus and ostriches are not locked up but inhabit the grounds. Together with the already existing animal and plant species, they form a new ecosystem.
Animal rights are always central to Vanmechelen's projects. The animals get lots of natural space and the best possible care. As Open Farm Manager, his wife Inge Kindt coordinates the different farms around the world. Caring for the animals is always done in cooperation with local groups of carers. The farms work with young people, socio-economically disadvantaged groups and people who fall outside the traditional frames for training and employment. In this way, artworks become relevant to the here and now, as well as in a universal, future-oriented and social sense. According to Vanmechelen, these components are of paramount importance in both art and life.
Also for LABIOMISTA, Inge sought out local social projects to collaborate with: De Regenboog and Covida vzw. De regenbOog vzw organises leisure experiences for children, young people and adults with a disability. As of today, ‘nature experience’ is also part of their broad range of leisure activities. Covida is a place where people with a disability can live, learn, enjoy, relax – in a word: live a full life.