Diversity is one of the driving forces behind the works of Koen Vanmechelen. Diversity also means global and comprehensive. For the cosmOpolitan gallery, the artist has prepared a very beautiful exposition, exploring the theme of ‘Diversity’ in his work. If the words CCP, Walking Egg, Cosmogolem, CCRP and mouth does not ring a bell, and you want to know more of it, then this exposition will be a real eyeopener for understanding the artistic practice of Koen Vanmechelen.
In de cosmOpolitan gallery wordt de volgende nieuwe tenstonstelling van Koen Vanmechelen getoond. De tentoonstelling heet “Cytoskeleton” en toont een overzicht van de artistieke ontwikkeling van de kunstenaar. Blikvanger in deze tentoonstelling is een 9 m grote houten sculptuur van een kip.
Koen Vanmechelen is a conceptual artist who explores the social function of art. For over 20 years he has been making mixed media work around a central theme of diversity, immunity and fertility. By approaching his subject laterally he has been able to make significant discoveries about genetics which have not been reached through conventional scientific practice.
The artist’s new exhibition in London springboards from his ongoing project The Cosmopolitan Chicken, in which he uses the chicken as a universal metaphor. By crossbreeding roosters and hens from around the globe he reflects the benefits of a diverse gene pool. Over the past 15 years Vanmechelen has cross-bred 18 generations of chickens from as many nations, proving emphatically that greater genetic diversity results in increased fertility and stronger immune systems.
In the evocative, labyrinthine tunnels of the 200 year old crypt of St. Pancras Church, Darwin’s Dream, reflects on the artist’s discoveries through works in a multitude of media. Curated by Jill Silverman van Coenegrachts and James Putnam, the exhibition features a living ‘jungle’ and a miniature lake at its centre and includes performance video, photography and sculpture in glass. The genetic lineage throughout the generations of the cosmopolitan chickens is illustrated in a family tree and larger than life-size photographic portraits of the parents and their offspring, presented alongside specimens of the different generations preserved in taxidermy.
Vanmechelen reflects Charles Darwin’s practice in his on-going work, surrounding himself with animals and observing the natural world as emblematic of civilisation as a whole. In the title Darwin’s Dream he poses a philosophical question concerning what we have come to understand of Darwin’s revolutionary ideas. Expanding on the idea of crossbreeding, the artist incorporates collaboration into his practice.
Working with specialists in the fields of sociology, anthropology, medicine, genetics and physics, Vanmechelen has contributed to valuable research in a variety of fields, an act which in itself illustrates of the importance of diversification.
With Signature, Koen Vanmechelen transforms the recently opened Guy Pieters Gallery in Knokke in a temple of biocultural diversity. For the artist, biocultural diversity is the fabric of human cultures and natural biotopes woven from co-evolution, adaptation and transformation that is the result of the contact between biological processes and cultural quests.
Vanmechelen's oeuvre explores the millennia of ancient diversity forged from these fusions and exchanges. The artist seeks out the ancient knowledge stored within them. But he goes further. Through the crossbreeding of animals, materials and forms, through the blending of the cultures that have shaped them and that they give shape to, and through the conquering the quagmire of the art/science interface, he synthesises new symbioses and innovations in diversity. His playing field is always the space between the two polar opposites underpinning life itself: construction and destruction. This intrinsically unending and unfinished process, which began nearly 20 years ago with the crossing of two breeds of chicken in the artistic Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, grows organically, expanding to include ever more species as it does: vultures, owls, iguanas, turtles, eagles, llamas, ostriches, and emus. Vanmechelen crosses and experiments without boundaries.
It is no accident that these species have found their place in the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project – naturally, every organism needs another organism to survive. One species leads to the next. Certain species co-evolve with others, like man and chicken; and each has formed the other. Some are species that are linked to mankind through other species. Like the llama, which, through the chicken, can play a prominent medical role in the future of man. Vanmechelen experiments with this connection – and not only in art. His many cooperative partnerships with university institutions worldwide have proven that art and science are two branches of the same tree. Together, they expand the horizon of our perception and reveal the Wunderkammer of the multiverse.
What is it that drives Vanmechelen? The eclectic nature of his art demands an eclectic approach. It is the work itself that drives him to the next project, the next expedition, the next crossbreeding, or the next uncharted territory. A Venetian griffin carries him to the marble oceans of Carrara and Michelangelo. The Mechelse Cubalaya takes him to the Maasai in Tanzania. The proto-chicken lures him to Nepal and India, while his unparalleled collection of chicken genetic material leads him to renowned research laboratories from Ann Arbor to Vienna. At the crossroads of all these interactions, his art is born. Multimedia installations that find their inspiration in the melting pot that is our world. Animals, preserved, translated into marble and reflected in glass.rolex falsi Larger-than-life bronze chicken legs that refer to prehistoric creatures, expressive paintings hatched from an egg. A cross between materials and identities, but with a clear storyline, its essence biocultural diversity, Vanmechelen’s signature.
Rurart, the Centre of modern art, holds a unique place in the French artworld. Situated next to the university of Agriculture, the center is known for its focus on bioart and strong educational program. With three exhibitions per year, they exhibited among others Eduardo Kac, Santiago Sierra and Jeremy Hutchison. For the fall, artist Koen Vanmechelen is occupying the space with a solo exhibition entiteled ‘Never Green – C.C.P.’.
From october onwards, visitors will have a chance to visit this interactive installation, that invites the onlooker to participate in the debate. It clusters and itegrates five basic elements of Vanmechelen’s oeuvre.
The cage in the corner houses two primal chicken – a hen and rooster - belonging to the Red Junglefowl species, which is ancestral to the domestic chicken. They embody the first human animals before they left the safety of their environment. The next millennia man domesticated the world and himself and aimed for the future by creating a multicultural and multigenetical environment. The two caged animals live on a stretch of raised brown soil, the metaphorical platform from which they started on their millennia old journey across the globe.
The consequences of that brave endeavor are expressed in the other elements that comprise the ‘tableau vivant’. The perfectly formed egg stands for the world of the future. The other elements pave the chaotic way towards that future. The palm trees look out of order in this context, and they are. They are the result of the human desire to change nature towards his needs. The quest for organization has only brought about more chaos as the natural world is now being destroyed with frightening speed. Although extinction is a natural process that has existed for as long as life itself, it is speeded up considerably by man. In the last millennium, the impact of humans on the biosphere has accelerated out of control. Hybridity is rampant, things seem out of control, global chaos awaits us. Mankind is disoriented.
The answer is reflected in the transparent container which contains 3D-prints of DNA of the chickens that Vanmechelen has been crossbreeding into his Cosmopolitan Chicken Project. And which is shown on video also. Portraits of these animals hang on an opposite wall. The desire of the creator to connect them, his energy, is captured by the red throbbing breeding lamps. They are only the beginning of a extraordinarily long experiment to crossbreed a whole new type of hybrid being that will lead us out of the chaos. It will be born under a giant transparent light, a beacon of the future, somewhere ‘out there’. As a third coming.
Mark: no green but a pink light. There is no ‘go’. Life is surprising in its splendid and fascinating otherness.
Exposition from 2nd October till 19th December 2014
From Monday till Tuesday 10h-12h/14h-18h
Free entrance, free guided tour upon reservation