Detroit—July 13, 2016—On September 22, Wasserman Projects in Detroit will present an exhibition of
works by Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen, whose wide-ranging oeuvre includes photography, sculpture,
mixed-media installation, video, and living art initiatives. The exhibition marks the newest phase of
Vanmechelen’s ongoing, 20-year-long Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), which crossbreeds chickens
from around the world as a means of exploring cultural, biological, and aesthetic diversity. Featuring the
artist’s 2D- and 3D-works, alongside live chickens from CCP, the exhibition highlights the artist’s
engagement with ideas of singularity and duality as manifested in the crossbreeding process and his
metaphoric representations of the chicken and the egg. Titled Energy/Mass, the exhibition will remain on
view through December 17, 2016.
Each year, Vanmechelen introduces a chicken from a different country to CCP, mating it to create a new
bird and continuing the genetic diversification of the flock. For the exhibition at Wasserman Projects, the
19th generation Mechelse Cemani chicken will be bred with the American Wyandotte chicken—named for
a Native American tribe historically prevalent in the lower Great Lakes—producing the 20th generation
Mechelse Wyandotte. This new fully-grown chicken, which now holds aspects of the DNA of 20
international breeds, will be housed in a specially created coop, along with its parent birds, as a living
installation that highlights the confluence of art and science. The exhibition will also feature recently
hatched Mechelse Wyandotte chicks, housed in a separate enclosure within the exhibition space.
Together, the birds reflect the core artistic and philosophical premise of Vanmechelen’s work: that the
chicken offers a mirror to human culture, and through it we can explore the significance of the relationships
between humans, other species, and the environment. Visitors are invited to engage with these ideas by
examining the physical attributes of the chickens, the intricacy of the crossbreeding process, and the
connections between the evolution of the cosmopolitan chicken and the development of our diverse
communities, societies, and cultures.
“In every country, humans have developed a chicken that says something about that nation’s culture. The
Cosmopolitan Chicken Project stands as a metaphor for those differences and attributes, and at the same
time, the idea that all living beings are reliant on each other and the environment,” said Vanmechelen.
“This idea of singularity and duality are at the heart of my work, and something I keep questioning and
studying through my paintings, sculpture, installations, and other projects. If there is one universal truth
that has risen to the surface through my more than two-decade investigation, it is that every organism needs
another organism to survive.”
The exhibition will feature a range of artworks from across Vanmechelen’s creative output, including:
● A photographic pedagogy of 20 generations of CCP chickens, showing, visually, the progression
of the species through the Mechelse Wyandotte, along with an installation of Open Secret, 2015, a
book-shaped vault that contains the complete genomes through the latest breed of chicken.
● Energy/Mass, 2016, from which the exhibition derives its name. The neon diptych responds to the
age-old question, “What came first the chicken or the egg?” For Vanmechelen, and as examined in
the exhibition, the answer is neither: all life begins with energy and results in mass.
● A new mixed-media installation, titled Unpredictable, 2016, that features a large-scale stainless
steel sword, measuring approximately 12-feet in length, suspended from the wall with a bronze
rooster positioned on the hilt. The work explores the relationship between weapon and wielder, and
where the power lies.
● Fragile Breed, 2016, a mixed-media work that is comprised of a barbed wire nest, eggs molded
from marble and glass, and horns made from bronze and glass. The beauty of the work belies its
thorny, and potentially dangerous exterior, while the materials make reference to the dichotomy of
strength and fragility.
● A new series, titled Material World, 2016, that includes 12 taxidermied roosters, created especially
for the exhibition, with crowns and feet formed in chrome—a reference to Detroit’s auto
industry—which emphasize the physical beauty of the chicken.
The exhibition will be followed by the launch of Vanmechelen’s Planetary Community Chicken project
(PCC) in spring 2017. The vision for PCC is to explore how artists and art projects can connect with and
benefit communities. In Detroit, the project marks the first collaboration between Wasserman Projects and
the Detroit-based nonprofit Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, which launched in 2008 and is committed to
developing new models of economic sustainability through urban farming initiatives and neighborhood
collaborations. In response to community demand, the Farm will begin to incorporate egg production into
its existing farming and sales operations. The chickens—a crossbreed of the latest generation CCP rooster
and an industrial egg-laying hen—will be bred on Vanmechelen’s farms, and then transferred to
Wasserman Projects and the Oakland Urban Avenue Farm for care and farming operations. The Detroit
launch follows PCC projects in Vanmechelen’s home city of Genk (Belgium), as well as in Harare
(Zimbabwe), Havana (Cuba), and Novosibirsk (Russia).
“The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project is an elegant metaphor of global diversity. What better place than
Detroit, a city built on diversity, and now invigorated by that diversity of people, cultures, ideas, art and
commerce, to introduce in North America the impact of this global endeavor into the consciousness,
imagination, and life of the community,” said Gary Wasserman, Founder of Wasserman Projects. “This
project invites the viewers to reconsider and appreciate the values represented through art, and extends into
science, agriculture, and commerce. The possibilities of this interdisciplinary practice are the basis of our
collective agriculture and art project with Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, which will begin to add eggs to
their product line, based on the Cosmopolitan Chicken, enhancing their nutritional and commercial