The Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen (1965) is an internationally renowned, conceptual artist. His groundbreaking work deals with biocultural diversity and identity. Over the past decade Vanmechelen has collaborated with scientists from different disciplines. That earned him an honorary doctorate at the University of Hasselt in 2010 and the Golden Nica Hybrid Art in 2013. In 2011, he based his studio and headquarters in Hasselt. Koen Vanmechelen and his team are currently working on the development of his new studio ‘La Biomista’ on the former mining site of Zwartberg, Genk.
The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project
Just before the millennium year 2000, Koen Vanmechelen launched his Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), a unique artistic project. Central to his work are the chicken (Gallus gallus) and the interbreeding of national chicken species into ‘Cosmopolitan chickens’. He uses this animal as a metaphor for observations around ‘la condition humaine’. In 2016, the artist’s ongoing creation of a world-hybrid chicken reached, with the Mechelse Cemani, its nineteenth generation. Born as a result of the crossing between the Mechelse Sulmtaler – CCP18 and the Indonesian Cemani, a completely black chicken. One year before, the Mechelse Sulmtaler came into existence when the Austrian Sulmtaler was crossed with the Mechelse Styrian, as presented at the Ars Electroinica Festival in Linz (AT). To date, the hybrid consists of regional breeds of chickens in Belgium, France, England, the U.S.A., Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Turkey, Cuba, Italy, Russia, China, Egypt, Senegal, Slovenia, Austria and Indonesia.
With the C.C.P., Vanmechelen positions art categorically where it belongs: in the middle of society, engaging with people, always committed. His oeuvre is as diverse and hybrid as the Cosmopolitan Chicken itself: a unique mix of paintings, drawings, photography, innovative 3D-techniques, video, installations and wooden sculptures. The unifying theme remains the chicken and the egg. Yet nothing is what it seems. The core of the project is neither the chicken nor the egg, but crossbreeding and the biocultural diversity that comes from it. In this way, the artist uses the animal and his offspring as important symbols that allow him to connect scientific, political, philosophical and ethical issues. These thoughts are expanded on at the Open University of Diversity, Vanmechelen’s breeding place and headquarters covering five international foundations; the Walking Egg, CosmoGolem, Cosmopolitan Chicken Research Project, MOUTH and COMBAT. The themes they explore are ‘glocal’, respectively fertility, children’s rights, immunity/diversity, community building and international migration.
Group exhibitions (selection)
Honors and Awards (selection)
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