Artist Statement

 The Story of Chickens employs experiential knowledge to shrink the gap between understanding ourselves, our environment, and the impact of our actions on the natural world. As sustainability enters into a new realm of necessity, witnessing the affects of our actions becomes a practical way of understanding how to improve the quality of life for all living things.

 It is the relationship we build with the natural world that will drive our motivations to begin caring for it. Growing and caring for our own sources of nutrients is a healthy part of our development as humans and gives us a new perspective towards our role as both caretakers and parasites to the earth. The experience is fodder for a healthy psyche and reminds us of our own birth and mortality.

 The process of co-existing with the food one eats is connected to a long history, by which generations have struggled, flourished and in one way or another, survived. Reflecting on norms of the past brings me to ponder on the effects of no longer being a part of those experiences, those relationships. My reflections elicit a sense of endemic detachment that is our experience in contemporary life, a detachment that affects our ability to perceive, understand and appreciate our influences on the natural world.

An Introduction

As a child and adolescent, I spent much of my time caring for animals and drawing pictures. These were the endeavors I enjoyed most. As an adult I have pursued a career in visual art. The journey of that career has led me back to revisit and assess my love for animals.

 The idea for “The Story of Chickens: A Revolution”, was solidified after reading a book recommended to me by my mother, Learning from Hannah: Secrets for a Life Worth Living, written by William H. Thomas, M.D. It is a beautiful story about a man who has spent his life becoming licensed to care for the elderly. Along his academic journey he has somehow forgotten how to build and maintain meaningful relationships with the people he has spent his life learning about. I highly recommend this book for all.

 

 I have posted three quotations from the book that I am most fond of and that have inspired, “TheStory of Chickens: A Revolution”.

 

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Learning from Hannah: Secrets for a Life Worth Living, by William H. Thomas, M. D., 1999

1. Life in a truly human community revolves around close and continuing contact with children, plants, and animals. These ancient relationships provide young and old alike with a pathway to live a life worth living.

 2. Loving companionship is the antidote to loneliness. In a human community, we must provide easy access to human and animal companionship.

3. Meaning is the food and water that nourishes the human spirit. It strengthens us. The counterfeits of meaning tempt us with hollow promises. In the end, they always leave us empty and alone.

 

 

Project Description

The Story of Chickens: A Revolution

The Story of Chickens: A Revolutionby artist Amber Hansen will debut in March 2012 with a ceremonial ribbon cutting for a chicken coop on wheels, and the installation of 5 chickens. During the event, community members will be invited to share personal stories about their relationships with animals and to discuss the project.

The coop will be a nomadic sculpture that will relocate every 4 days. It will be created with the technical assistance of Cotter Mitchel and will be designed to be both functional and beautiful. A public message board in the form of a chalkboard will be mounted on it, to update and inform viewers about the birds and the project.

The chickens will inhabit the coop for one month. During this time many members of the community will become engaged through story telling, proximity, and caring for the birds. The project aims to create a daily interaction with animals on a communal level. Volunteers and community members alike will become guardians of the chickens and they will have the opportunity to build a relationship with the birds.

At the end of the month, the chickens will be removed from the coop and butchered in a humane way under the guidance of Hank Will. The public will be invited, and encouraged to witness this phase of the life cycle that is often hidden from our perception. Such slaughter takes place on a mass scale every day, but each generation becomes further removed from this reality.

Participants will then be invited to a potluck that will take place the next day, when the birds will be prepared for consumption by 715 restaurant head chef Michael Beard. The meal will take place at the Percolator Art Gallery, an alternative community-run space in downtown Lawrence.

By building a relationship with the birds, the project will transform the contemporary view of chickens as merely “livestock” to the beautiful and unique creatures they are, while promoting alternative and healthy processes of caring for them. It will also make visible local groups who are already making efforts to do so.

The public will be notified of the coop’s location via the Lawrence Journal World, so that they can watch its location as it moves throughout town.

Hansen: “Interacting with animals allows us a more complete understanding of humanity; it reminds us of our relationship with the natural world, and our responsibility in caring for it.”

About the Artist

 Amber Hansen has been involved in numerous community based projects and has experience painting murals, film-making, caring for farm animals. It is from your childhood experience, being surrounded by animals, that this project was inspired.

 Cotter Mitchel: Born, last century, and raised in Lawrence, Kansas. Mitchell began his “Art Support” career in 1984 at the Spencer Museum of Art as an Exhibition Technician. Since 1989 Mitchell has managed the Common Shop for the Art & Design Departments, assisting students and faculty with all aspects of fabrication in varied mediums. Mitchell freelance works with local and international artists, and galleries including the fabrication of public sculptures, packing, shipping and display of art objects.

 Hank Will: Hank Will-Will’s career in agriculture began while working toward his Ph.D. in plant biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Chicago. After leaving Chicago, Hank put his rural Harrisburg, South Dakota farm to work. He grew and direct marketed several thousand free-range broilers annually from that  location. His substantial laying flock supplied the Banquet and other local food charities with hundreds of dozens of donated eggs year round and he has also donated hundreds of pounds of  free-range turkey to the Banquet and Sioux Falls Food Pantry. He is currently the editor of GRIT Magazine.

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