November 29th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
ABOUT THE TREES
Thanksgiving 2021

November 25th 2021

UNAPOLOGETIC CONTENT.

November 15th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
THE WORLD MAP
Thanks to Mr Hide

November 8th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
KOEN VANMECHELEN LABIOMISTA, GENK (BELGIUM)
The book launch and debate
“NOT TO BE MISTAKEN”, November, 4th

October 25th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
OCTOBER 2021
"Linda Karshan: The Covid-19 Conversation"
Still in the limelight

October 18th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
IDE TO POLAND
POSTSCRIPT PARIS

October 11th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
IDE TO POLAND III
Out of the oven
Warsaw Sept 28-Oct 3

load more
October 5th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
HELMUT FEDERLE
NOVARTIS Campus – Forum 3, Basel
DIENER & DIENER - WIEDERIN
2005

October 2nd 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
BETWEEN LISTENING AND TELLING
Esther Shalev Gerz
Nuit Blanche Paris,
Tonight

September 27th 2021

UNAPOLOGETIC CONTENT.

September 20th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
ART BASEL HALL 2.0C1
René Schmitt and ART & LANGUAGE
THESE SCENES, 2016

September 6th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
MISCHA KUBALL
Wolfsburg and Utopias

August 30th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
IDE TO POLAND II
A new expedition on the CERAMIC & FOOD ROUTE
Bright blue and white ceramics fill the dining room with warmth and visual appeal

August 23rd 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
IDE TO POLAND I
A new expedition on the CERAMIC & FOOD ROUTE
Starts today in Warsaw through 3 October

August 2nd 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
ESTHER SHALEV-GERZ
SUMMER IN PARIS

load more
July 30th 2021

UNAPOLOGETIC CONTENT.

July 26th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
ARCO MADRID,
1st Art Fair in 2 years

July 23rd 2021

UNAPOLOGETIC CONTENT.

July 19th 2021

UNAPOLOGETIC CONTENT.

July 16th 2021

UNAPOLOGETIC CONTENT.

July 12th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
IN THE ARTIST'S STUDIO
JASON BUTLER "THE COLLAGES"
Pop-Up Exhibition, Jersey

July 5th 2021

STILL BEHIND THE SCENES:
NINA NOWAK'S EXHIBITION
Galleri Susanne Ottesen, Copenhagen

June 28th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
PER KIRKEBY UNREALISED BRICK PROJECTS
Galleri Susanne Ottesen, Copenhagen

load more
June 21st 2021

NEW ARRIVALS:
MISCHA KUBALL

June 18th 2021

A WALK IN MY LIBRARY:
HELMUT FEDERLE NIETZSCHE-HAUS SILS-MARIA
Schwabe AG Basel, 2004 Peter André Bloch & Jan Thorn-Prikker
on the occasion of Helmut Federle's "Edelweiss im Nietzsche-Haus, Sils-Maria" exhibition in Nietzsche's Haus, Sept 2004 to July 2005

June 14th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
L'INTERSTICE ARLES OPENING
JOSETTE SAYERS AND GUILLAUME ZUILI'S PHOTOGRAPHS
Brave and fearless

June 4th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
THE LAUNCH OF REAL TIME AND THE 3BS

May 24th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
MATHILDE BRETILLOT DESIGNS NEW MUSEUM FOR LA MANUFACTURE DE GIEN

May 17th 2021

THIS TIME TWO YEARS AGO:
DRAW ART FAIR, LONDON, 2019, DESIGNER MATHILDE BRETILLOT AND ARCHITECT MISKA MILLER-LOVEGROVE

May 10th 2021

NEW ARRIVALS:
WETTERLING, STOCKHOLM

April 25th 2021

A WALK IN MY LIBRARY:
HELMUT FEDERLE
ABSTRACT PAINTING OF AMERICA AND EUROPE
Ritter Verlag, Galerie nächst St. Stephan, Vienna Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, 1988

load more
April 11th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
LUKAS HOFFMANN, CNAP ACQUISITION AND TWO EXHIBITIONS

April 9th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
ESTHER SHALEV-GERZ, WEFRAC 2021

February 22nd 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
RICHARD MILAZZO OBSZINE #3
The Sadness of Bad Thinking

February 15th 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
RICHARD MILAZZO OBSZINE #3, ART, POETRY, AND THE PATHOS OF COMMUNICATION,
The Art of Impeachment

February 1st 2021

BEHIND THE SCENES:
WITH POET/CURATOR RICHARD MILAZZO
REVISITING OBSZINE #3

January 12th 2021

A WALK IN MY LIBRARY:
POETRY IN SEDITIOUS TIMES

January 5th 2021

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND SOUVENIRS FROM 2020!

all posts title image
Koen Vanmechelen, Photo by Kris Vervaeke

BEHIND THE SCENES:
KOEN VANMECHELEN LABIOMISTA, GENK (BELGIUM)
The book launch and debate
“NOT TO BE MISTAKEN”, November, 4th

November 8th 2021

PART I: WHERE IT STARTED

Last week, I travelled to Genk, Belgium, for the book launch of a mid-career monograph “NOT TO BE MISTAKEN”, an anthology of fragments and memories of the thirty-year-long journey that saw Koen Vanmechelen create his first assemblages in the ‘80s, carry on a vast program of poultry crossbreeding and, eventually, open LABIOMISTA, the great park for biocultural diversity inaugurated in Genk in 2019.

A debate was organised on this occasion with JORGE FERNANDEZ, DIDI BOZZINI & KOEN VANMECHELEN and me, moderated by PETER DUPONT.

My text from 2014 was included in the book and it is reprinted here below with photographs of the evening in the studio, surrounded by Koen Vanmechelen’ artworks and a hundred and fifty guests.

Koen Vanmechelen and Didi Bozzini, Photo by Kris Vervaeke

PART II

“Where it started: the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project”

Something very curious happens when you look inside a museum and see a large space covered by a thick dirt floor with a dozen fat white chickens walking around pecking the ground, eating and drinking, from time looking out the window, or finding their way down wide enclosed plastic shoot taking them into the garden where they can see a large handsome grey brown and mottled rooster in his cage, surveying the sweep of the museums’ grounds which are enclosed by eighteenth century brick building. This was the very first installation of the Cosmoplitan Chicken Project in 1999 as part of a group show in the Provinciaal Museum of Hasselt, in a group show called In den van de ring curated by Anemdie Van Laethem.  The exhibition was varied—I was installing a series of sculptures made by Richard Deacon and Thomas Schutte as a collaboration called Them and Us  in the small rooms of the Beginhoff,  as well as video sculptures of Tony Oursler—it was the period where Oursler had video images of distorted faces trapped by furniture, caught in corners of suitcases unable to get out, crying desperately in an endless loop—among other artists in this exhibition were works by land artist, Peter Hutchinson, and fellow Belgians Marie Jo Lafontaine not far from large wax sculptures of a young Berlinde de Bruyckere.

Jill Silverman van Coenegrachts, Photo by Cécile Bargiarelli

PART III

The outright humour these busy chickens brought into this serious art setting was sparkling. As the opening day approached, it became a sport to see how often the white chickens (who I had learned were all female, and French Poulet de Bresse) could jump onto the plastic gang-plank and try to see, talk to and just generally attract the attention of the Belgian rooster (the Mechlese Koekoek). It was clear to me reading the sign in front of the roosters’ cage that this was “A CROSS-BREEDING PROJECT” which also made me laugh, thinking about other kinds of installation work that might help me decipher what I was seeing (I of course thought about Walter de Maria’s Earth Room, (1977) in New York, and the many tiers of display cases and museum cabinets of Marc Dion’s artefacts from foraging along the banks of rivers and collecting animal specimens, and again of Joseph Beuys’ love of his political party for animals.)  I spent time looking carefully at this three room installation by the unknown Belgian artist with great interest. The room with the dirt floor and chickens had a black and white film filling the far wall, just behind the seven level nesting bar for the hens at night, it showed a long haired man eating pieces of cooked chicken, looking into the camera, pulling bits off the bone and eating with relish. It amused me that the chickens were uninterested in the film. Then in the adjoining room were documentation mounted on the wall in the style of On Kawara, or Hanne Dareboven, charts, graphs, head shots of chickens with what looked like passport information just below, the texts on the wall had a regularity about them that smelled like a new kind of minimalism, mixed up with the technological constructions like incubators, pens with red heating lamps, small televisions with other video works playing. In the hours before the opening, I spent time taking in the breadth of this installation, and trying to see where its origins lay, and how it was so fresh and lively, and daring. It was something familiar but I realized in its complexity that it was a complete vision of something totally new.

From left to right: Carolina Charles (translator), Jorge Fernandez, Jill Silverman van Coenegrachts, Peter Dupont, Didi Bozzini, Koen Vanmechelen, Photo by Kris Vervaeke

PART IV

The afternoon itself was punctuated by a momentous discourse delivered by the late Jan Hoet. It was a hot summer day, and he stood under the shadow of one very large Chestnut tree, with the audience seated around him on the grass, there were a good hundred listening to him for over an hour. Hoet was well known for this style of preaching, no one moved, and it seemed that day as if art history was being made quietly in a small town in Limburg. It felt like one of the parables in the New Testemant with Jesus teaching the converted, though I didn’t understand the nuances of the Flemish conversation, later Jan said to me, you know, this young Belgian, is the most important artist we have since Broodthaers. The seed of this idea had already rooted in my mind in the days I had watched the completion of the installation. My first conversation with Koen is retold as part of the speech that I made last year in Hasselt (you can find it on you tube or the Darwin’s Dream website). How I brought the project a year later to London so that the offspring of this first crossing could mate with the British female redcaps is also part of this talk. The summer of 2000 the second stage of the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project filled the first floor gallery of the Lisson Gallery’s Tony Fretton building overlooking Bell Street. The exhibition was called A Shot In The Head, and the mix was referred to as the MECHELESE REDCAP. All the elements of the installation from Hasselt were present in a smaller space, this time the hens and the rooster were sharing their pens in the gallery, instead of dirt flooring they had sawdust, the sounds of their voices and the smell of real animals reminded everyone that nature has a very strong presence even in an art gallery. I am not sure how the gallery in New York smelled when Beuys and the Coyote cohabited together for his performance. Or how it sounded the muffled or loud communication between them.

Koen Vanmechelen, Photo by Kris Vervaeke

PART V

The four diagrams of the future ideas for the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project filled the wall opposite the pens. It was impossible to know in the summer of 2000, that everything this young artist wanted to achieve, that he meticulously drew on these breeding charts, would eighteen generations later come to be. The noble title of this first chart is GALLUS DOMESTICUS MECHELSE COSMOPOLITAN sounded more like something you might find in an early Latin text of Virgil, than in a contemporary art work. The physical differences in the birds who followed man, or had been put into burlap sacks and taken with man from the Himalayas to North America, and all the continents in between—he had presented like a display chart—the way Marcel Broodthaers transposed cows into types of automobiles, for example.  What is so striking here, is how much like the populations of one part of the world or another these chickens looked. The Chinese silky has feathers that look like threads of silk, the French hen is the color of the French flag, the Jersey giant is as mighty as the state of New Jersey, and so on. But as I repeat to everyone who will listen, this work is not about chickens. It is about all of us, and the crazy society we make in our diverse ways.

“NOT TO BE MISTAKEN”, book cover, Photo by JSVCprojects

PART VI

The world has moved hard and fast since the birth of the CCP project. There are for the last few years, international groups of scientists working parallel to his art work, because in this intuitive questioning of things Vanmechelen has come from the sides in a lateral form of address to the heart of some of the very large and very difficult issues facing the world today; be they issues of immunity and fertility, or the way such things affects the global food supply; his art work repeatedly questions the accepted perspective that has come through evolution and the free market. In one way, his capacity to inquire about what has happened, and have us look again at what could happen if, is the fundamental principle that drives his artworks forward, in addition to these glorious installations, he continues to make paintings, drawings, video works, installations with taxidermy participants in the CCP project. He has written texts, delivered TED lectures, addressed Unesco, while his installations appear in biennales, and international exhibitions on a regular basis.

“NOT TO BE MISTAKEN”, pile of books at LABIOMISTA, Photo by Pieter Simons

PART VII

His art speaks to the importance and universal presence of diversity in all species, and it looks at the edges of this topic where political and economic questions come into play, of discussions about the movement of people, of the way in which diversity may affect immunity and fertility. Of how domestication over centuries and millennium can be seen to affect the genetic behaviour chromosomes inside the different species; how on some level nature is the filament that connects all living things regardless of species. We come to understand on a sub atomic level where the similarities lie, Koen Vanmechelen and his intuitions take us from this micro understanding, to the widest macro view imaginable; only art can pose such questions in a way that will get our attention, and only such an artist can maintain both his innocence and daring to demand we look at these intricate and difficult subjects with relentless courage.