Biography Koen Vanmechelen

Koen Vanmechelen is one of today’s artists that no longer chooses for just one medium to work in, but instead has developed a unique mix of different media. His works range from highly expressive paintings and drawings, to photography, video, installations, works in glass and a recurring wooden sculpture. What connects all these different ways of expressing himself is the chicken and the egg. Over the years they have become an important symbol that has enabled the artist to make a connection to scientific, political, philosophical and ethical issues. The intricate system that he thus developed is the subject of the debates, conversations and lectures the artist organizes or takes part in to shape his philosophical universe.

Before he started his all-embracing project, he made wooden constructions, assemblages, and cages for poultry, staying close to the tradition of the Belgian assemblage artists.
Nowadays his work can be divided in three main categories: Golem, the principle of the creating man, is the point of departure for the whole of his work and is still an important pillar. The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP) is the core in which Vanmechelen works around an extensive breeding programme with chicken breeds from all over the world. By doing so he asks attention for crossing borders in all means of the word and above all a mutual understanding. Medusa is the so called scientific part that used to be called The Walking Egg and can be seen as the think tank behind the CCP.

“Cross-breeding is the one thing” says Koen Vanmechelen: “We need to cross breed across the boundaries if we want the world not to perish. We need to think cosmopolitical. Nothing is as beautiful as joining with other cultures and take energy from this”.
The first, primitive chicken, the 'Red Jungle Fowl', still lives near the Himalaya. In Nepal Koen Vanmechelen was able to film a Red Jungle Fowl family. In contrast with domesticated chickens the Red Jungle Fowl is monogamous. As the fowl still lives in the wild, monogamy may be even a stronger characteristic than the polygamous element. The super bastard or Cosmopolitan Chicken is no return to the primitive fowl, but a new start.
For his first cross-breeding Koen Vanmechelen chose the 'Mechelse Koekoek', the pride of Flemish chicken breeding and a relative in name to the artist. It was cross-bred in 1998 with the 'poulet de Bresse', a first-rate French chicken. Their cross-breeding, the 'Mechelse Bresse', was later cross-bred with the English 'Redcap'. This 'Mechelse Redcap’, uniting Belgian, French and English nationalities was crossbred with the American 'Jersey Giant' which is not surprisingly the biggest chicken on earth. Only in case a border is actually being crossed, the artist indeed shows the whole breeding process, from the hatching of the eggs until the breaking out of the chicks. More cross breedings were made with the 'Dresdner Huhn', the Dutch 'Uilebaard’ and a Brasilean chicken which is a samba chicken.

 
De Backer Gallery