The Story of Chickens: Project Update

Through this project, I made a commitment to unveil what I have found to be the abstracted and passive experience of our disengagement with the animals we consume. “The Story of Chickens”’ intent is to provide an opportunity for this engagement.

The average American’s interaction with food is at best a passive one. By this I mean that consuming is often reduced to a purely aesthetic experience abstracted from the reality of life and death. I believe our current reliance on factory-farmed animals to be a parasitic relationship. By urging a closer relationship between the consumer and the consumed, I hope to promote a more conscientious and tangible relationship.

The slaughter of the five chickens meant to take place at the end of the “Story of Chickens” proposed full disclosure of a controversial, yet all too common ethical paradox for the omnivore (for humans to consume meat, an animal must die). The very notion that we can choose to cause a condition, yet refuse to acknowledge or make public its affect and result, veils and censors our connection to that activity. The Story of Chickens is in no way meant to dictate or promote ethical stances for or against meat consumption. Its thesis is to promote a closer and sustainable connection to our food, specifically chickens. With this closeness comes the responsibility of realizing and de-abstracting the conditions and origins of that which we choose to consume.

Modifications have been made to the original project in response to input from the Lawrence community. Further modifications have also been made so that the project may lawfully exist within the city limits of Lawrence:

On March 30th an empty coop will be introduced to the Lawrence community. There will be an exhibition of local artwork at the Percolator reflecting on our relationship with animals and the food we consume. The empty coop will remain visible for three weeks in yet to be announced locations in Lawrence. Saturday, April 21st   will mark the closing of the project at the Percolator. Chickens will not be displayed, nor slaughtered and eaten as a part of the project. Instead, a handful of invited speakers will share stories about their experience caring for chickens followed by a potluck meal. I will continue to collect interviews from members of the community and will continue to post them to the blog site.

The current city ordinance allows city dwellers to raise backyard domestic fowl but forbids their slaughter within the city limits. The city ordinance also prohibits the dwelling of chickens on public property and greatly limits the visibility of chickens being kept on private property. Designated dwelling locations for the coop are pending in light of the above referenced ordinances.

As communities move forward in the attempt to become wholly and locally sustainable, limitations such as the above stated ordinances impact the connectedness one may have with the full cycle linked to the local raising and consuming of chickens. These ordinances also make it difficult to integrate animals into the urban landscape. The question I had when beginning this project remains: Can a symbiotic relationship between animals and humans be created within the urban landscape?

I am grateful to the many individuals who have already contributed meaningful dialogue as well as those who have shared their time and stories. I look forward to the continued discussion.

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  1. [...] Artist Amber Hansen, whose project, “The Story of Chickens” received support from a 2011 Rocket Grant, is currently in the process of reconfiguring plans in light of communications received from the City of Lawrence, KS, indicating the project was against city ordinances, and in response to community feedback. A full description of the reconfigured project is now available at http://rocketgrants.org/2012/02/29/the-story-of-chickens-project-update/. [...]

  2. [...] Hansen has stated that she will comply with city regulations and will change her project so as to avoid the live chickens and slaughter.  Instead, the empty coop will be shown and the project will involve community artwork and local chefs will prepare a meal.  Speakers who have raised chickens will present and there will be an open discussion. [...]



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