Shadows of Reality

18-01-2014

Late in the afternoon in the cosmpOlitan gallery, sunlight casts long shadows of the stuffed chickens on the floor.

It reminds me of the allegory of the cave by Plato.

Plato describes a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe names to these shadows.fausse montre According to Plato the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to view reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners. In my perception a true artist can reveal the same message as the philosopher in the allegory of Plato.

An artist can make us see things differently. Let’s look at the chickens in the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP) of Koen Vanmechelen. In this project, different pure breeds of chickens are crossed with each other, each breed standing for a typical nationality, e.g. Mechelse Koekoek for Belgium, Poulet de Bresse for France and so on. At this moment the CCP project is in its 17th crossing.

Each chicken crossing integrates the new ‘nationality’ within the mix of all previous ‘nationalities’. After a number of crossings, one would expect a monstrous chicken to emerge, however, each new chicken generation looks pretty much like an ordinary chicken, and was it not for the ring around the leg of the chicken, one would be convinced that it was an ordinary chicken. When we see the different generations and crossing standing next to each other, we unintentionally start looking closer at each chicken generation comparing it to the previous and the next generation, as if we wanted to know what made one generation different from another generation. Is it the posture, the comb, the length of its legs, the color of the feathers and so on?

We can find many minute details, only to see that these can be lost completely in the next crossing. Sometimes we see new details appearing in the new generation which we cannot see in the previous generation. The more the chickens actually look alike, the more we as humans will focus on little discerning details,orologi replica almost forgetting that they look pretty much alike, they are actually all chickens.

Is this not what we do in our human society? Focusing so much on small details, almost forgetting that we are all humans? This is the lesson given to us by Plato and Koen Vanmechelen: get rid of the chains clustering us in the cave and get to look beyond the shadows and appearances.