Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Story of Chickens

One of the most talked about art topics in Lawrence right now is Amber Hansen's project The Story of Chickens.  A Warhol Foundation Rocket Grant was awarded to Hansen for her proposal to house chickens in a traveling coop. At the end of the project, the chickens would be eaten at a community gathering.  

Modifications were made in response to community input and after Lawrence's City Hall announced that Hansen's project was breaking city code. For now, no chickens will be used in the project; an empty chicken coop will travel to "undisclosed locations" throughout Lawrence starting on March 30.  A community potluck and discussion will follow on April 21.

Currently, there is a call for submissions for The Percolator Gallery's show The Story of Chickens, curated by Hansen, for art that is "a personal reflection on chickens, the food we eat and where it comes from."  Art may be in the form of film, photographs, poems, paintings, prints, or sculpture.  The opening for this show is March 30.

More about the Project
People have very strong opinions about this project.  Some critics say that it is inhumane to use animals for the sake of art.
Here is the artist's statement about her project given on her "The Story of Chickens" blog: Through this project, I made a commitment to unveil what I have found to be the abstracted and passive experience of our disengagement with the animals we consume. “The Story of Chickens”’ intent is to provide an opportunity for this engagement....
The average American’s interaction with food is at best a passive one. By this I mean that consuming is often reduced to a purely aesthetic experience abstracted from the reality of life and death. I believe our current reliance on factory-farmed animals to be a parasitic relationship. By urging a closer relationship between the consumer and the consumed, I hope to promote a more conscientious and tangible relationship.
With this closeness comes the responsibility of realizing and de-abstracting the conditions and origins of that which we choose to consume.

Some critics of this project have been unfairly harsh, like this article entitled "15 Minutes of Shame' in which Bradshaw compares the psychology of this project to the "doubling" or dissociation similar to the twin selves guards had when working at Auchwitz. While the "camp self" performed selections for the gas chambers, the humane self played congenial host and father outside the prison—a psychological no-lose proposition.

In any case, this project has raised community discussion about just where our food comes from, which was Hansen's original aim.  Look for her empty chicken coop around town starting March 30 and check out her opening the next Final Friday at the Percolator.

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