The Story of Chickens – A Revolution

The Story of Chickens: A Revolution is a project formulated by artist Amber Hansen that addresses the complex relationship shared between humans and animals. The Story of Chickens explores the relationship of humans as both caretakers and consumers. The project consists of a unique nomadic chicken coop built to house 5 beautiful chickens. The coop will take residence in 3 well-traveled, high foot-traffic areas in, or within close proximity to downtown Lawrence, KS. The coop and the chicken’s presence will encourage community members to visualize an urban landscape that is accommodating and accepting of the presence of animals. During this time many members of the community will become engaged through scheduled story telling forums, proximity and caring for the birds.

Volunteers and community members alike will become guardians of the chickens as they share in the opportunity of caring for the birds. At project’s end, the chickens will be removed from the coop and butchered by local farmer/Mother Earth News Editor: Hank Will. As part of the project experience, the public will be invited to witness this phase of the life cycle. Participants will then be invited to a potluck on the following day. The birds will be prepared by 715 Restaurant owner, Matt Hyde and head-chef, Michael Beard. The meal and closing discussion will take place that day at the Percolator Art Gallery, an alternative 501c3 community-run space in downtown Lawrence, KS.

The Story of Chickens addresses many contemporary issues relating to the invisibility of animals in urban areas, rapidly disappearing small farms and a disconnection from the consequences of consuming meat. By building a relationship with the birds, the project aims to 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. The project will also make visible local individuals and groups who are already making efforts to do so.

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.”

 

For an update on this project posted by the artist, please visit http://rocketgrants.org/2012/02/29/the-story-of-chickens-project-update/


About the Artist

 Amber Hansen r 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.

For more information, visit: http://vimeo.com/10624755

 

 

 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.


Comments
106 Responses to “The Story of Chickens – A Revolution”
  1. This is horrible. I understand and appreciate the statement the artist is attempting to make, that our society is so separated from our “food sources” and we have no knowledge of where our sustenance comes from, but it’s highly unnecessary to sacrifice more animals. There are countless images and resources the artist could pull inspiration and disgust from to make her point, she doesn’t need to waste more life.

    • Nancy says:

      I agree wholeheartedly that this is horrible, unacceptable, especially from an artist who cares for farm animals & has spent her life surrounded by them. It indeed shows the lack of compassion, desensitization, and disconnect going on with the human race and the animals we share our planet with. If I lived there, I would surely protest this offensive “art”.

    • Fiona Owen says:

      This is a disgrace – as if we need ‘art’ to get this theme across, when it is so apparent to anyone who pays attention. Yes, ‘Interacting with animals allows us a more complete understanding of humanity’ – and we then need to USE our humanity by not killing other sentient beings!

    • Katherine says:

      I passionately oppose this!! A traveling carnival of animals through Lawrence, culminating in the communal bloodletting execution of the five birds, most likely in front of each other, seems like a desperate attempt on the part of the gallery and the “artist” to be “original.” But it isn’t. It’s stale, cruel, and impoverished.

      In addition, the birds so used are most likely the very genetically-engineered, industrially produced hatchery chickens locavores claim to oppose as part of their opposition to “factory farming” of which this is in fact not an alternative but an example. Cloying rhetoric notwithstanding, there is nothing kind or respectful about turning a helpless bird into a degraded spectacle, and contrary to claims that throat-cutting is “humane,” it is not. Throat-cutting is extremely painful to the victim, made worse when the victim is immobilized in a killing cone that prevents him or her from struggling, while conveniently hiding the evidence of suffering (apart from the hoarse cries of the birds) from view.

      Cuddling these chickens and gaining their trust, then turning on them with a knife, while this may be a standard farming practice, is neither humane nor necessary, and it certainly isn’t art. It’s plain old gratuitous cruelty seeking a legitimized outlet. The project is completely misconceived. It is not revolutionary in any worthwhile sense. We urge its immediate cancellation.

  2. Dawn Ellsworth says:

    I must agree with you totally Kennedy! Theses are live beings! I think it would prove to be much more beneficial, if it was shown that these animals have worth. I think it would be a much better learning tool, if these wonderful chicken souls would be allowed to spend their days at a sanctuary, such as United Poultry Concerns.

  3. Julia says:

    Dear Ms. Starbucks,

    Please believe that I am not intending any condescension or disrespect in saying how much I value your energetic and well-articulated opinions. I don’t agree with them, but I think that this kind and level of discussion is part of what defines a free and healthy society.

    For myself, I eat meat, wear leather and step on insects. I don’t say this proudly or as a taunt. Like you I have thought deeply about the arbitrary lines we often draw as humans to define what is “valuable” life and what is not – chicken, cockroach, carrot, refugee, soldier. I think about the way we are nestled in a cycle of life and death, with our own continued existence requiring the consumption of some form or other of living matter. This is a deep existential truth that, if questioned and recognized with gratitude, gives dignity to our own short lives as well as those we extinguish.

    The most important principle, in my opinion, is to live with respect and mindfulness. What I understand from Ms. Hansen’s intervention is that she wishes our regional community to become more aware of the disrespectful way we have disconnected from this cycle of life and death. Ms. Hansen’s work will afford the chickens a far more humane existence prior to their deaths than the billions of creatures that are mindlessly consumed in daily life, and clearly will arouse emotional self-reflection. We typically do not think about how ANYTHING arrives on the shelves of the supermarket, or the way that we participate in supporting the cruelty of factory farms and the destruction of whole ecosystems through profit-driven agribusiness. Our food system is as hidden from view as the sewage system that flushes it all away after the consumption has occurred.

    You may not believe that social engagement is a valid role for for art to play. I would disagree here as well. I see artists as uniquely suited to engaging the general public in thoughtful debate about the critically important issues of our time. As institutions and customs that used to perform this function have diminished, it has become increasingly important to invent compelling platforms for public dialogue, to bring hidden, forgotten, unquestioned values into the light – and artists know how to do this. This instance is a good example.

    I am grateful that there are institutions in our community who believe in the value of disagreement and debate, and who support art that is intended to make us think and feel more deeply about the way we live. In the bigger picture, we can surely learn a lot from each other by recognizing the validity of alternative points of view and earnest attempts to address our individual and collective failings.

    With respect,

    Julia

    • Michelle Schwegmann says:

      The point of view that these birds should die so somebody can make a fancy meal of them is not a new or alternative viewpoint. It is the status quo. We do not need institutions or community to illustrate that for us.
      Having known some chickens, I don’t think it matters to her if you kill her mindfully. It’s always a her, because there aren’t many males, they get killed upon hatching mostly. You’re still killing that bird because you want to and because you can, which is not an evolved action. We humans have the choice to eat animals or to not, to kill or to not — we do not need to consume animals to thrive.
      To recognize or see or learn more from the “cycle of life” (which is really a justification for an animals death) that so many humans ARE removed from would require humans to depart from standard behavior. Ready? Don’t kill the chicken. Don’t eat the chicken. What can we use and consume instead? There is where you will find departure – there is the discussion of something new!
      Just because the system is the system most certainly does not mean that it is correct. Often, usually, it is otherwise. Slavery used to be normal. Women didn’t always vote. You get the idea.

      There is huge industry counting on people staying ignorant about the fact that you don’t need to eat animals to live. Couture butchery and fashionable backyard birds are just a fad that makes a lot of people feel good about themselves while doing exactly what everyone else is doing while wearing vintage boots.
      Want to be radical? Stop using animals and get creative in the kitchen. Keep your chicken as a pet, let her die when she dies and don’t buy another one.
      I guarantee that will get you engaged with people, as people do feel deeply about what they eat and how they live. You’ll have some engaging and meaningful discussions about what to eat instead of dead animals! But just killing as usual is certainly not something to celebrate and it is certainly not an art to celebrate.

      • caitlin says:

        I understand that we’re not going to convince each other of the other’s views here, and I’m all for art that invokes true and strong emotions, but I’d like to say that my own deep, rich and complicated understanding of what it means to eat meat came from my early experiences hunting. Though not a practice represented in this project, and one that is now surrounded by an industry that is highly problematic, I had some of my most ecologically grounded experiences learning to track, understand and harvest animals. A process that by family tradition demanded the full use of the animal and was imbued with the deadly seriousness of the pursuit, I came to truly understand what being not only a meat eater meant but also about the many nuances of power. I won’t say I didn’t cry the first time I harvested an animal, but that process also changed fundamentally my relationship to my food. I think that this reverence and thanks for the animals is inherent in this project and that killing is not always a form of disrespect or waste as thousands of years of tradition and cultural practice might suggest.

    • The chickens don’t give two clucks about your “respect” or “mindfulness”, they just want to live. There is no such thing as humane slaughter. These chickens do not need to be killed to prove this point. It is horrible that animal slaughter is considered “art”. It’s not.

      It is not challenging the status quo of animals as commodities to show them being commodified. Taking these individuals who have value and are not a means to an end, but an end in themselves and using their unnecessary deaths to try and prove a point is obscene.

      That animals are killed and raised inhumanely is not a huge surprise. Consumers know it. They just, mostly, chose to ignore it so they can continue eating what they wish with minimal guilt. Killing these hens just adds five more deaths to a staggering amount of chickens killed each year. Not cool.

      Why not have people see these hens, interact with them, start to see them as individuals and then reflect on that. If people, after meeting hens, find themselves upset or uncomfortable about the possibility of those hens being killed, or if they find themselves rejoicing that they end up in sanctuary instead, then I would say that is changing minds and hearts and making a point about the animals we call “food”. Having them publically killed and consumed just seems like trying to be shocking for the sake of it. Again, not cool.

      • Julia says:

        I think I understand your concern, but also do not see any evidence that the artist is interested in shocking anyone with the killing of the chickens. She comes from an agricultural background in which it is an accepted fact that farmers raise animals for consumption by people. Her interest seems to be in discussing the ways in which this process could be made more transparent, healthy and respectful. It is hard for me to understand the reflexive, and apparently uninformed condemnation of this project by so many. It would seem that there have been hundred’s of hits on this page, but almost no-one has actually listened to or read any of the research the artist has been doing.

        One thing that I hoped to articulate in my reply, but seem not to have done too well so far, was to explain that personally I don’t see a clear line of separation between the life force that flows through a chicken, a bacterium, a vegetable or a hungry child. I think we are all hopelessly entangled in making personal choices about living and dying, killing and letting live, every moment we breathe. As a society, we try to come to agreements about levels of common decency, and on these we base our laws and customs, but ultimately these are all matters of personal conscience. As many religions say in one way or another, let he who is without blame cast the first stone…

        Several people have made interesting comments about how eating grains is more ecologically sound than eating chicken, and I think many people who still consume meat have reduced their consumption for this reason. If you wish omnivorous humans to change the habits of countless generations, it would make more sense, in my opinion, to find ways to make these kinds of ideas more seductive and persuasive. (Right now, I might say that I would rather eat an organically raised chicken than grain that may well be GM, or contaminated with a mass of unknown chemicals.)

        I also think that the majority of people are much more likely to become engaged in a project of this nature rather than an invitation to take their kids to a factory farm. I feel sure that the conversations that continue to emerge from this process will raise many deep feelings, convictions, ideas and proposals, all of which will contribute to a better informed, more critically engaged public. I suspect this might be a more productive strategy than the name-calling, insults and contempt that has marked a great deal of this discussion so far.

        Kind regards,

        Julia

    • stephen says:

      Juila,

      I am sure nearly all the writers on this site accept “social engagement” as an appropriate stance for artists to take. What they may dispute is your proposition that “our own continued existence” requires the killing and consumption of sentient beings such as chickens. In fact, it does not. And no matter how fine or subtle Ms. Hansen’s installation will be, it must propose the opposite, and thus be a lie. And on this point, I agree with Keats, “beauty is truth, truth beauty….”

      The poet of course, was a proponent of animal rights. (Read his “Eve of St. Agnes” and his sad lines “the hare limped trembling though the frozen grass.”) Keats’ friend the poet Shelley was more than this — a vegetarian who wrote the following about farm animals: “They are called into existence by human artifice that they may drag out a short and miserable existence of slavery and disease, that their bodies may be mutilated, their social feelings outraged. It were much better that a sentient being should never have existed, than that it should have existed only to endure unmitigated misery.”

      For Ms. Hansen to reach back to the basic insight of Shelley would in fact be, as the title of her exhibition claims, “a revolution.”

    • Hannah says:

      i find it odd that you think the most important thing to keep in mind when contributing to the death of an animal is respect. surely the chickens being killed would care little for your respect while you are the cause of their deaths. saying that you respect something that you caused to needlessly die is quite offensive to their lives and sounds like a mockery. this is not some philosophical nonsense we are dealing with; it is actual living things.

    • Ann Distin says:

      How do I get the comments in email form that I may send to friend ?
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  4. What utter nonsense! You claim that “the project aims to 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.” If you’re still slaughtering them for food before their time, you are not “transforming” today’s view of chickens as livestock; you’re perpetuating the same perception which is neither healthy, humane, ecological or necessary. Real care would be to let them live with space, care and others & show they are “sentient beings” who want to live too & to protecte them .I’ve seen & heard of a lot of BS “art” projects but this is one of the most vile.

  5. Blessyourheart says:

    Julia,

    TL;DR.

    Amber,

    Maybe showing how the majority of chickens in America are raised, instead what looks like an advertisement for free range chickens (which, by the way…doesn’t that Mother Earth editor guy that’s involved in this sell those for profit?) you could focus a little more closely on your goal. It was our complex relationship with chickens, right? Take them to a factory farm, or show them a full transport truck up close. Selling Mr. Mother Earth’s chicken business for him isn’t art, and it doesn’t educate the community about the realities of factory farming, which is where the vast majority of them get their chicken. Maybe you should re-think this. From the outside it looks like ill-conceived marketing, and not in the least bit artistic.

  6. Jim Mason, co-author: The Ethics of What We Eat says:

    This project may be called “art” in an attempt to give it some sort of sanctity; instead it is a simply an age-old ritual–and a tiresome one–intended to desensitize/detach people from the animals they eat. Why not just call it what it is: Emotional manipulation for the benefit of the poultry and livestock industries?

    • A wilson says:

      Very well said Jim. This whole project left me scratching my head asking what is the point? There is nothing humane about “butchering” any living being. And in case she hasn’t noticed, there are millions of vegans on this planet consuming no flesh from animals and living extremely healthy lives. So killing and consuming animals is nothing more than a mindless habbit we’re all taught from a very early age. Thankfully, some of us are able to break free of the brain washing and truly be able to connect with Mother Earth without torturing and killing any of her animals.

    • Kyle McKenzie says:

      How does this project benefit the poultry and livestock industries?

      • Kyle McKenzie says:

        Pleae note: Jim Mason (whose opinion I have greatly valued in the past…) has not answered yet. I can’t understand how “humane” (whether you accept the definition or not, you must accept that it refers to a specific set of practices) raising and slaughtering of chickens benefits the poultry or livestock industries. I would assume that Jim Mason (whose name means a great deal to many in our community, and who has a reputation as a well-reasoned researcher/writer) would read the project description before dropping his big ole’ name against a project. Please tell me, Jim Mason, how does this project benefit the poultry and livestock industries?

      • Jim Mason, co-author: The Ethics of What We Eat says:

        The operative language is “emotional manipulation.” As more and more people come to regard animals for what they are–fellow beings with feelings and lives of their own, the L&P industries worry about loss of profits. I think they worry that natural empathy and affection for animals will grow if not kept in check by lies, rituals, and bad science. They need to manipulate our feelings about animals–to make us detach, disconnect that natural empathy and affection. They need rituals like this to desensitize us to the pain, suffering and killing inherent in turning animals into food (and profits).

      • Kyle McKenzie says:

        Hello Jim,

        Thank you for your response, and I apologize for my overzealous goading. I did want you to clarify your point, but communicated that in a very disrespectful and unconstructive way – thank you for responding anyway.

        I understand your point that the poultry and livestock industries benefit from the public becoming more desensitized about the killing of animals. I don’t see how this project encourages that. The vast majority of meat-eaters do not think much about where their meat comes from, what conditions it was raised under, or how it was slaughtered. The industry wants us to accept the cultural norm, and not scrutinize its practices. Factory-farming evolved from a desire to maximize profits by processing as many animals, with as little individual attention (i.e. cost) as possible. I believe that an increased awareness of these things will result in fewer animals being consumed.

        Whether you believe it goes far enough or not, the treatment of the chickens in this project (and on many small farms) is drastically different than that of conventional factory farming. It seems unlikely to me that this project will encourage anyone to eat more chickens. Obviously, if you are already opposed to eating chickens, you are probably aware of these issues, and are not likely to be convinced that it is acceptable. What is far more likely, is that this project may convince some omnivores to limit or eliminate their consumption of factory-farmed animals. Doing so results in fewer birds being raised for slaughter.

  7. Lynn Davis says:

    Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinions and concerns about your project. In general I support any form of art that challenges the norm, and urges the viewer to think. When it’s not at the cost or humiliation of others’ lives. The chickens will have developed trust, and I think the worst thing you could do at the end is kill them and serve them as dinner. Especially as a spectacle.

    I urge you to think hard about this. Whether you agree that the lives of animals are worthwhile or not. These are other living creatures. How do they deserve to be treated? How do you deserve to be treated? I’ve thought about this, and my answer is freedom, and the right to live a full life, free from harm, captivity and the unknown.

    Your creativity and ingenuity could be capitalized upon in a much more significant fashion to positively impact factory farming and animal cruelty. You could really inform lots of people about what’s happening, and make a much bigger difference with an art installation that doesn’t end in slaughter, and one that does not depict the antithesis of how 99% of chickens are raised and killed for food on a daily basis. Have you visited a factory chicken farm? If not, please at least do this before considering your project further.

    My goal here is not to judge. I ate animals and supported industrial food for the majority of my life, and it was kind, non-judgmental people who helped me to see the truth of what’s happening, and the reality of how each living being deserves the duration of a full life experience. As we are human and capable of love, compassion and invention, I believe we have the option to give animals their freedom. Thank you for listening.

  8. VEGUN says:

    This is just an attempt to get attention and controversy for your art. grow up and get some compassion. your art is not interesting and true respect for animals allows them to live and thrive!

  9. JCB says:

    This project, to me, seems to be a perfectly reasonable way to raise awareness and empathy for the larger causes vegetarians and conscientious omnivores worry about. Animals are slaughtered and wasted wholesale b/c people want to eat them w/o having to see them, interact w/ them, or slaughter them. No need to go into the damage this modern way of consumption wreaks upon honest farmers, local economies, the environment, or our health; everyone here is aware of these issues. When our food sources are “out-of-sight, out-of-mind,” so are these problems. This project brings it back home. So why the outrage?

    • A wilson says:

      Because it is completely unnecessary! All you “humane meat” farmers have this rosey notion that one day we’ll all be living on family farms like the good ol days raising and killing animals for our food. Wake up. This is not ever going to happen no matter how many public butcher displays you all show off. There are entirely TOO many humans on his earth now to ever go back to that kind of farming. The whole reason we have factory farming is due to the sheer number of humans consuming animals. Look at what happened with Horizon Milk…..they started out small and “humane”, then everyone started buying milk from them and due to the demand, they have implemented a lot of factory farming techniques. So the whole theory of getting back to small farms will never become a reality so long as the human population continues to spiral out of control. Now is a time for humans to eat lower on the food chain more than ever before. You can only manipulate nature and animals for so long until it finally breaks. And we are at that breaking point now.

      • Julia says:

        I didn’t know that about Horizon. Do you think that anything would shift if people started growing more of their own food and keeping chickens in their own backyards?

      • Humane KS says:

        In addition, at least one new study indicates that grazed cattle emit more methane than feedlot cattle. http://vegetarianmythmyth.wordpress.com/ Here’s a quote from that article “it’s time to move the conversation forward: the ethics of, and cognitive dissonance that is necessary for, “humane meat”, grass-fed meat, and pasture farming are highly questionable; and we have to contend with those questions now if we want to deal with the crises of ecology, psychology, and ethics that are literally destroying the earth.”

  10. thegenerousweb says:

    sure would like to see that video… I’d like to see the artists view.

  11. It is unfortunate that people eat meat, this is true in the sense that meat comes from Life and an animal has a soul (if you include humans). I would say that the artist is wrong about something, though. In the urban setting, people often have chickens as *pets*. We don’t kill our pets, now do we?

    The artist is trying to bring a rural sensibility to urban dwellers. This is good on its face but I think that the artist fails to recognize that urban dwellers don’t want farming as much as they want sophistication.

    Chickens are a part of becoming elevated. In fact, English gardens used to always contain a few miniature chickens. These were not eaten – they were for ornamental purposes. Dogs are ornamental in the same sense as English chickens – you could have them around you while you enjoy tea, and they are entertaining to watch and in fact quite smart. Another fact: Urban people do not want pig farms, nor goat farms, nor chicken farms in the city. Instead, they want intelligent neighbors who keep chickens as exotic pets. And maybe even a goat or two. But not a farm.

    Non-art, but a good thing for chickens none-the-less.

    F-

    Another Rocket To Nowhere Grant – “Missing the mark since the mark was made.” Tax-deductible fail.

  12. Blair says:

    Everyone here has made strong and valid remarks that point to a human desire for compassion and seeking answers. For myself, art should tell the truth.. The life and fate of these chickens in this project tells a hard truth about humans and their existence with food. Hansen and the Rocket Grants are very brave to acknowledge this reality and place it in a context that creates discussion and eventually, solutions.

  13. Tiffany Thompson says:

    “Rocket Grants are reported to encourage work that is”inventive” and “under the radar”…
    Awarded projects are evaluated not only on the artistic merits of the proposed projects, but also on their capacity to stimulate further growth. Proposals should contribute to a diverse and supportive art ecology characterized by unconventional and expansive forms of interaction, exchange, provocation, and surprise. Rocket Grants enable artists to take new risks with their work, push the scope and scale of their activities, develop and pursue collaborative projects, and/or engage with the public and public realm in inventive and meaningful ways.”

    Amber Hansen’s “art” is neither inventive nor under the radar. Guillermo Vargas Habacuc was more provocative when he tied a dog up in a gallery to starve to death. Neither stimulates growth or engage me in a meaningful way. I hope the next panel of judges read a few more trade journals before funding the killing of animals in the name of “art”.

  14. I agree that art should tell the truth but not at the cost of lives, even animal lives. I ask you to check out the amazing, honest, provocative artist of our time, Sue Coe, who shows all of us willing to look at the “truth” about “food” animals & many other ugly truths of animals & humans, having witnessed many of them first-hand. Yet she has never hurt or killed anyone to make her poignant points & would refuse to, no matter what.

  15. Joseph Best says:

    Oh my! The idea that chickens being eaten is cruel is ridiculous and basically indefensible…especially from tofu eating vegans whose consumption of processed and manufactured soy has huge environmental costs- destroying the air, rivers wildlife habitat. The fact is that survival causes some sort of biological disruption. Unless of course you grow in your own back yard- without use of inputs from outside your own soy- and then process it yourself. Inputs and outputs. We are locavores to the extent that we can be- and it’s one of the most important aspects of my life… but it’s still really hard to eat locally. A neighbors farm provides us with bread, grain, granola, milk cheeses, and now in winter meats— chicken, goat, beef and pork– happy loved respectfully slaughtered all. This art project is heroic I think. People need to think where there food comes from— including the damn veggie burger you just smugly ate. You think little children in South America aren’t being impacted by your corn tortilla??? The fact is ladies and gents… A happy bug eating cared for chicken that has copulated, run about, squawked, and loved their babes– as best their little darting reptilian heads could – has lived a good life. They eat each other when they have the chance. If any of you ever spent any time watching your living food have sex, fight, live and die— you’d know that. As I see it— today is my turn to eat- and when I die- I will be wrapped in a cloth and buried in a box and then it’s their turn to eat. It’s not a question of if- it’s a question of when. We’re part of the life we’re surrounded by. We consume part of that living totality to survive… Please don’t conflate the notion of death, dying and consumption with the truly cruel dysfunctional process of industrialized farming that makes us obese all the while it makes us dependently and blindly destroys our planet. It is unconscionably cruel to the animals that are processed to live and die through it and none of that process has anything to do with the ideas this artist is attempting to convey. If you’re freaked out by it– wake up and smell the death that you invariably consume everyday. Wow. You know what as I finish this— we just so deserve the society that we have! From the top right on down to the bottom. All self inflicted wounds of willful (or lazy) blindness.

    • EB says:

      Joseph,

      A major flaw in the locovore argument…There simply isn’t enough productive land on this planet to feed seven billion people the diet that you eat. But there is enough land to feed all seven billion of us on a plant based diet that may include tofu.

      The issues you describe with soy are from the conventionally raised soy — which is mostly for animal feed anyway. (right — you locovores only eat grass fed animals….)

      So here is my last point. I have met many locovores here in Lawrence — but have yet to meet a single one who is consistant in their locovorism. They all eat any meat and dairy — no questions asked at parties, and public events.

  16. Ben says:

    I see a lot of comments against this project. I just wanted to say that I think this is a great project and I fully support it. That’s all. Sounds beautiful. Hope the project goes smoothly.

  17. Jarrett says:

    When things are hidden from view is when we need to worry. Bringing things out in the open increases awareness and accountability. I think the artist is doing a service to us all by drawing our attention to the issue of the horrific treatment of animals in the industrial food system and providing an alternative. In my opinion the questions raised here are not about vegetarian vs. omnivore as much as they are about the treatment of the animals omnivores consume. Far better to be one of five chickens raised in open air conditions free of stress than to be in a massive, disease filled, hot barn cramped in with tens of thousands of other chickens who have likely been mutilated to prevent them from inflicting lethal wounds on each other as they psychotically try to peck each other to bits. These industrial conditions are what necessitate the over use of antibiotics leading to environmental contamination and their eventual ineffectiveness.

    Is there an argument to be made for vegetarianism? Sure, but I think there is an even more urgent argument to be made for addressing the tortuous living conditions of all
    livestock.

  18. ASP/SPA/PAS says:

    When it comes to life and death people have strong opinions (rightfully so) and passionately convey and defend those opinions. We all have a certain amount of limited knowledge and think we are doing the right thing based on that – what more can we do? (read more, think more, keep an open mind, be logical, trust our intuition, engage issues in manifold ways, talk to people, try new things)

    Here is what I think:
    We are nestled into a very complex interconnected web of life and death. Simply by being alive – through no choice of our own, we participate in creating opportunities for life and destroying life. This happens directly and indirectly – you do not have to kill and consume a living thing directly to cause its destruction. In fact most of the life destroying we engage in happens indirectly, unconsciously, outside our awareness.
    Amber’s project places a very specific type of destruction – killing chickens for food, squarely within our sphere of awareness. Even if one is against killing animals for food, doing it consciously, directly and with awareness is better than the alternative. Creating awareness is a very powerful thing (adding to our knowledge banks and aiding in the decisions we make) I would not be surprised if Amber’s project inspires as many people to become vegetarian as it inspires people to participate in local, humane animal raising and slaughtering .
    Life is a guarantee for death; therefore what is really important is the quality of life before death. The chickens, as cognizant animals with feelings and desires would certainly prefer one type of life over another and one type of death over another. By providing a high quality of life (which seems to be the intention of the artist) and, as far as we know, a painless slaughter, this is infinitely better than subjecting animals to a life of extreme cruelty and a horribly painful slaughter. On the ethical scale this project is eons away from factory farming. They are killing animals none the less, and if you are vehemently against this practice, then you should fight this project and do everything you can to shut it down and save the chickens…just be smart about it.
    Should this project be considered art? Since there is no immutable definition of art it is very difficult to declare something as ‘not art’, especially if the intention of the maker is that it be art. This project, along with many of the Rocket Grant funded projects, falls within the scope of Social Practice – which, although nebulously defined, is an accepted and important form of contemporary art production. You can read more about it here:
    http://socialpractice.org/wiki/index.php?title=Definitions_of_Art-based_Social_Practice
    Since this project falls within the vast majority’s realm of ethically sound, and since it fits squarely within social practice I see no logistical reason why it shouldn’t of been funded. Any disagreements would be purely based on opinion.

  19. Cody White says:

    Several have stated this is not art. I don’t have an answer to the bottomless question “what is art,” but it seems reasonable to suppose it has something to do with purposely creating situations in which spectators have meaningful experiences. In a world in which the majority of people regularly consume animals they have little contact with (and thus rarely give thought to), I am certain some passersby will find the experience of coming in contact with these chickens to be meaningful indeed – particularly when they reflect that the birds have an invisible clock ticking over their heads and that most food chickens don’t have it nearly so good.

    The question of whether or not this particular art is morally justified is a different question, one for which there is room for many thoughtful perspectives. It might make sense to say that if the exhibit saves more lives than it takes or if it stops more suffering than it creates, it is justified. But of course there is no way to know for sure whether it will. To me, it certainly seems possible, even very likely, to think that it will result in less net harm and more respect for animals. Even if just a relatively small number of people seeing the exhibit on their way to dinner decide to go for the vegetarian option for one night, it might be said to have succeeded in having raised consciousness enough to register a small net benefit. My own guess is that this is exactly what will happen. And for years the experience might continue to resonate as people walk again down that street and are reminded again of what they saw. (Personally, I do stand in favor of the exhibit.)

    All of those questions are difficult and ambiguous. What is blindingly clear, however, is that Amber Hansen’s intentions and the reflections that the exhibit will provoke are overwhelmingly good, even as she purposely treads into ethically complicated terrain. It is truly disheartening to see so many people (particularly on the Facebook page, but here as well) spew vitriol and personal attacks at a thoughtful compassionate artist who obviously has a position on animal welfare far closer to their own than the average person. The fact that these insult slingers manage to go through their days without insulting every random omnivore they meet says to me that Hansen’s real offense is not slaughtering chickens but rather suggesting that the animal issue, which these oh-so-pure aspersion casters must like to think of as shut and dry, is actually freighted with complications and ambiguity. I’m sorry to inform them that it is. I don’t think this exhibit seeks total success in the fight to bring better conditions to animals. It seeks only to take a step toward that success.

    • Julia says:

      I think you have hit the nail on the head really. It seems to be very challenging for us to collectively think through or debate anything that falls into the grey zone. So many issues in our complex world shift their meaning in a different context, but individuals tend to opt for one certainty or another. Perhaps the willingness to live in the constantly changing space of uncertainty and to work to form evaluative judgments and appropriate actions on each occasion is just too uncomfortable?

      It takes a leap of faith to engage in such constantly evolving processes, and perhaps if you have never had a model or a guide to show you the freedom and empowerment of such a stance, then the challenge is overwhelming? I’m not sure how we can move forward as a species unless we get better at this. We could be forever locked in polarized debate as the world becomes more and more unloved, like a child who has to watch her parents bicker and fight rather than use their energy to help her to grow.

  20. Shameful. Cruel. Heartless. Unnecessary. Pointless. What is proven or demonstrated with this “art” exhibit? Far more impactful to observe chickens in their natural state with all their instincts intact and personal desires and interests fulfilled. It reminds me of a story from several years ago where a young “film artist” in Toronto filmed himself skinning a live cat. I am confident he had a lot of time to reflect on the artistic merit of his project while he sat in jail. Please – abandon this plan. You have everything to gain by demonstrating compassion.

  21. Joseph Best says:

    The natural state of a chicken is eating, laying, having sex and waiting to end up in a pot… there are no natural chickens. Humanity developed the chicken as food. There are wild fowl– but a chicken is not an example. A chicken would be immediately eaten if left in the wild because that is what they were developed for. AGAIN- this isn’t cruel. We all live and die and we all will ultimately be consumed. Torturing and scaring chickens, allowing them to suffer- to never move or turn or hunt— that’s certainly cruel but the fact of eating one is not per se that.

  22. Julia V says:

    I completely support Amber and her project. I am proud to live in a region where challenging, thought provoking art is supported.

  23. VEGUN says:

    Who here sees how selfish it is to give an animals a so called good life out of a factory farm? We only want to do it so we don’t feel as bad when we viciously kill them. We can then tell ourselves oh they had a good life and we gave them dignity! We that really understand that animals have a right to thrive and live a life as close to nature as possible are fighting for their comfort because that is the best we can achieve going against so much tradition and belief. The people who use animals and are choosing so called humane standards are doing it so they can feel better. Here is an example of that thinking. I want to rape a women but I don’t want to hurt her and hope she can enjoy the captivity before the act happens. So I give her good food and a warm place to stay while captive. Now who do you think feels good about this? Does she want to be raped? Hell no but my desire is what counts! This was normal practice in our history with wife’s.

    There are no heath benefits to eating meat. It is solely done to satisfy taste buds. We do not need meat but we want it and at any cost. Yes we do a lot of killing indirectly in life but the people who can raise an animal love, care for it and gain that animals trust and then kill it are really scary to me. I would guess that a big majority of us could not do that and not be disturbed.

    Taking these chickens to the city and putting them in a pen is not kind. This is so obviously an extreme way to get attention for the artist. Maybe not shocking but any time you kill for arts sake you are going to get attention and self promotion. One day most of us will get how selfish we are for taking the thousands of lives in a life time because we liked the taste! It is happening slowly.
    Conversations like this are happening all the time now.

    • Julia says:

      I can hear your personal distress, and recognize your compelling argument against killing other creatures to which you feel a connection. I can see that this feels wrong to you. I admire you for living in accordance with your principles.

      I am also a principled person, and care a great deal about the incredible mystery of life in all its forms. We surely agree on many things, but I disagree with the conclusions you draw in this matter. This may be related to personal experience, information, character, beliefs or many other differences between us.

      I cannot claim to know who you are because of what you believe, but I may be inclined to discount your opinion by the way you appear to dislike me and think of me (or any other meat eater) as equivalent to a rapist.

      Similarly, the artist that you imagine to be attention-seeking and interested in selfishly promoting her career, is actually a kind, quiet and caring person who is working for something that she deeply believes will make a positive contribution to our community. I imagine for myself that she must be bewildered by the unkind assumptions that are being made about her and her work.

      I know it takes time to do good research, but it might be helpful to reserve judgment until you have a reasonably good set of facts.

    • Lee Piechocki says:

      we do a lot of things to feel better, and there is nothing wrong with that. For example: you becoming a vegan to feel better about yourself and your relationship to the ecosystem is very similar to Amber humanely raising and slaughtering chickens so she can feel better about herself and her relationship to the ecosystem. I see your cases as very similar and only different in degree. I bet you might even be friends if you had a chance to talk.

      Your rape scenario is completely off base, as Amber is killing the chickens and not raping them (the relationship between victim and perpetrator in rape situations is very different psychologically than in murder cases) If you would like to compare chickens to humans I think you should at least do a direct comparison: a human hostage which will be slaughtered and eaten. Case 1: the hostage is brutally tortured, starved, deprived of light, exercise, nutrition and then very slowly and very painfully killed before consumption. Case 2 the hostage is given comfortable surroundings, good food, lots of sunlight, exercise, companionship and then killed very suddenly and painlessly. This seems like a more accurate comparison, and raises the question, “why does the hostage have to die at all?” It also seems to make apparent that, if the hostage must die, one way is better than another.

      Most of things we (humans) do we don’t ‘need’ to do. In fact, nothing at all comes to mind. I think I can honestly say, I don’t need to do anything. Yet it is impossible to do nothing as choosing to do nothing is in itself doing something. So, if we must do something and don’t need to do anything, i suppose we should do what we want. I am not trying to be a smart Alec here, this is something I truly believe.

      I think it is important to consider what Amber is doing as first – her attempt to have a more direct and ethical relationship with her ecosystem and her food source and second – as an art project. Amber is an artist, it is what the majority of her ‘work’ would be categorized as. She is also a person who raises chickens to have a more direct and ethical relationship with her food source. The Rocket Grant allowed her to think about these two separate parts of her life and combine them in a compelling way. What she is doing with the chickens, to me, seems very very different than an artist killing an animal for art (which i think would be reprehensible).

  24. sharie says:

    Show me an artist who can inspire this dialogue without resorting to harming another and I’ll show you a true artist.

  25. Mary Britton Clouse says:

    I am an animal activist and a visual artist whose work for over 20 years has focused exclusively on the lives of individual animals mistaken for food. In 2001, I founded two organizations, Chicken Run Rescue http://chickenrunrescue.org/ and Justice For Animals Arts Guild http://www.brittonclouse.com/jaag.htm.

    The proposed exhibit “The Story of Chickens: A Revolution” and the resulting public reaction represents an intersection of the commodification of art and the myth of sustainable animal farming. As long as humans imprison animals, manipulate their reproduction, kill them and eat them, every other form of exploitation, such as this exhibit, will remain acceptable. Whether it’s a backyard, an “enriched battery cage” or this exhibit, the living creature is defined by her death or by the bodily functions that can be taken from her.

    Art’s gift is to let us imagine where we can go, not let us rot where we have been.

    Questions for the Spencer Art Museum:

    1. Which, if any, of the following exhibits involving animals would the Spencer have not approved on ethical grounds and why not:

    a. live fish displayed in a blender with fully operational power switch available to museum guests. Trapholt Art Museum, Denmark, 2000.

    b. live chickens caged and tacked on a wall. Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2000. (No live Animals Policy instated, 2001)

    c. video tape of a cat tortured to death to be exhibited at a gallery, Toronto. 2001 (Exhibit cancelled.)

    d. chicken beheaded in an art class at University of California, Berkeley, 2003.

    e. chickens, mice, cats and rabbits from shelters decapitated and photographed within moments of death, Sweden. 2004.

    f. predator and prey species housed together. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2005. (No live Animals Policy instated, 2006)

    g. starving street dog chained in a gallery with food just out of reach until he dies. Managua, Nicaragua, , 2007

    h. video of horse, a pig, a goat, an ox, a deer and a sheep bludgeoned to death
    San Francisco Art Institute, 2008. Exhibit canceled. Humanitarian Art Ordinance, passed in March 2009.

    i. chickens confined in public space, subjected to stress of constant relocation, throats slit in public event, and eaten. Spencer Art Museum, 2012

    2. Does the Spencer Art Museum have a policy that prevents harming vulnerable humans? Would you view that policy as censorship?

    3. Does the Spencer Art Museum have a policy that prevents harming companion animals? Would you view that policy as censorship?

    4. Does the Spencer Art Museum have a policy that prevents harming animals mistaken for food? Would you view that policy as censorship?

    5. Will the Spencer Museum of Art publish the names, photographs and origin of the “heritage” birds the artist intends to slaughter?

    Comments to the Spencer Art Museum:

    Censorship is the suppression of ideas. Animals are not ideas – they are as real as we are. Their suffering and deprivation is psychologically and biologically indisputable, in the present, and means the world to that individual animal. No act of self expression is worth the life or liberty of another.

    Self censorship is exercised by artists every moment of every day. The species used in violent art almost always conveniently fall into categories of animals afforded the least legal protection and consideration: animals used for food or experimentation, and “pests”. The real challenge to artists and arts institutions is addressing the notion that a violent act can be finessed with the right curatorial marketing strategy.

    The use, torture and killing of animals in the name of art has accelerated, each act more atrocious than the last. And why not? Each year in the US, over 10 billion chickens suffer from intense confinement, cruel handling and painful terrifying deaths. Although they represent over 95% of the animals raised for agricultural and other purposes, chickens are excluded from protection of anticruelty laws, humane slaughter laws and laws that regulate experimentation. If you are looking for the under dog of all underdogs, that would be chickens.

    The most fundamental change that will evolve our relationship with other species is the adoption of a plant based diet and recognition of each animals’ individual worth. The public reaction to this exhibit demonstrates that there is critical thought on the primary act of subjugating individual animals as food, and that the status quo is shifting. The Spencer Museum of Art’s Institutional Code of Ethics requires that it gives “appropriate consideration to represented groups and cultural beliefs” and avoid compromising “standards of balanced presentation”. An artist must have the right to express, verbally or non-verbally, an abstract idea. Yes. That this right trumps the bodily integrity of another living being? No. To paraphrase: one’s right ends at the other’s nose. Art institutions must adopt “No Live Animals” policies or become irrelevant.

    • rocketgrants says:

      Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Mary. As you will see in the statement that we published, this is not an exhibit at the Spencer Museum of Art.

      • Kennedy Starbucks says:

        Dear Rocket Grants, I feel you missed the point of Mary’s comment; according to their website, the Spencer Museum of Art sponsors the Rocket Grants program. Therefore any art produced through Rocket Grants reflects upon the Spencer Museum.

        This is not hard.

    • Julia says:

      Hi Mary,

      This is a very carefully constructed argument, and I find a lot of valuable ideas in here. I would differ with you in a couple of important ways:

      First, your conclusions are based on the premise that the life of a chicken is equivalent in every way to the life of a person, and that the life of a chicken is more valuable than the other life forms you consume and that you consider not to be “sentient”. Please see my arguments above regarding this set of beliefs. It is natural that if other people have thoughtfully come to a different set of premises, that their conclusions may differ. There may be more than one truth.

      Secondly, your focus seems to be on the ideology of change – which I find encouraging in our time. For myself, I think equal emphasis needs to be placed on the pragmatics of change, something that probably requires a softer, more nuanced, persuasive approach.

      A good example that might address your thinking, I think, might be the idea that we send soldiers into battle to kill and be killed in the name of furthering our ideology/economy. The basic idea is that we sacrifice some for the good of the whole. Personally I find this idea horrific, but that is the way we continue to operate for so many different, deeply embedded reasons.

      Any number of long, personal statements are never going to change the policy of a planet. It is going to require many changes on many levels, and that requires us all being in deep and respectful conversation, allowing for imperfections and failures as we move along. Many of us feel that this work will contribute to deep conversation and thinking, that it is not “cruel”, and that the project should be supported for this reason.

      Julia

    • VEGUN says:

      Sure hope you sent this letter to the Spencer Museum!

  26. Marcy says:

    Meat eaters who feel guilt are always happy to find a way to rationalize their murderous practice. This is just another example of excusing the continuing unnecessary murder of animals; humans can live on the bounty of this earth without resorting to killing. Plain and simple, the exhibit glorifies murder.

  27. v hai says:

    Any killing of a sentient being who does not want to die is cruelty.
    You are cruel if you participate in this in any capacity.
    That is the most basic of facts.

  28. mothercordes says:

    The impassioned and thoughtful responses to this project is evidence that it is making people think and feel. The title of the project is “The Story of Chickens” and in the United States, the story of the average chicken is that it is killed and eaten (in 2008 Americans ate 18 billion chickens). Conceptually, this work engages people in a conversation about that. I would hope those who are outraged would not direct their an anger at an artist who is honestly trying to engage the community in a dialogue about the very issues that seem of concern to them. There seems to me far bigger targets and villains out there when it comes to chickens.

  29. EB says:

    Julia:

    (Who appears to be the alter ego of the Spencer Museum here) I think I can sum up your basic argument as this: “Life is full of gray areas, and there are no values that are inherrently better then others –except for this — being careful not to be ethnocentric is a value that will serve society better then nurturing compassion.”

    Yes some people may go vegan after seeing this exhibit. Some people oppose capital punishement after witnessing executions. Some people stop purchasing Florida tomatoes after seeing illegal immigrants beaten when trying to escape their enslavement on tomato farms.

    Just because some good can come from violence — that is not a reason for ethical people to embrace it. “The ends justifies the means” is clearly not an approach to create a more just society.

    It is time for the Spencer to pull the plug on this exhibit. The longer they fail to do so, the more complicit they become not only in the violence here — but also in ruining the arts for all of us. I can just see the conservative budget cutters falling all over themselves to publicize this whole fiasco — NOW they will have a really compelling reason to cut more funding for the arts!

    EB

    • rocketgrants says:

      Hi EB,

      Please see our joint statement regarding Ms. Hansen’s project here: http://rocketgrants.org/2012/02/09/statement-from-the-rocket-grants-program-about-the-story-of-chickens/

      You will note that funding is from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, who believes as strongly as we do in supporting freedom of expression.

      Thank you for your thoughts,

      Rocket Grants program

      • A. David says:

        Dear Rocket Grants program,

        “Freedom of expression” – Charles Manson was quite creative in his killing style – if he wanted to have an exhibit of pictures of his exploits in that area, would that be considered freedom of expression? What about creative child pornography? Or is your limit simply what is within the law? That as long as something is vulnerable enough that the law doesn’t protect it, then neither will you? If that’s truly how you feel, then I feel really sorry for you – or I should….really I feel sorry for anything that comes under your power. If you cannot see that killing sentient beings to make an “artistic” point is cowardly and cruel, then you are missing something in life that no one will be able to provide you.

    • v hai says:

      Well spoken and articulate argument that helps turn the focus back to the inherent violence and cruelty of this “art”. It truly amazes me how opaque the path to violence can become. This is DEATH ON DISPLAY. It serves nothing except to celebrate the helplessness, enslavement, and subjugation of these chickens’ lives. To satisfy a curiosity? Or is it just a whim?

      It is bad enough that we have to endure a society that hides big agricultures’ daily cruelties of the billions of animals subjugated their entire lives for human purposes (do we not even care that each and every one of those billions is an individual who just like us needs/ wants/ deserves at least some freedom in their lives, never mind decent living conditions?). Now this enslavement is being celebrated in art? There are better ways to educate and inform.

      I think the idea has already truly served its purpose by generating the conservation. Thank you for that for exposing what could have been inexcusable cruelty for the sake of it. Now leave the chickens alone and let them be without the indignity of their deaths on display.

    • Julia says:

      EB: I’m proud to say that I have made a lifelong practice of thinking and speaking for myself, as I am sure you have!

  30. rocketgrants says:

    Hi Kennedy,

    The response was intended to clarify some facts that appear to have been incompletely understood. I should have published the link to our joint statement: http://rocketgrants.org/2012/02/09/statement-from-the-rocket-grants-program-about-the-story-of-chickens/.

    Thanks,

    Rocket Grants

  31. A. Bitterman says:

    If I could eat all of you, I would.

  32. Nicole says:

    Is it safe to assume that many who oppose this project or at least write opposing opinions on this site are vegetarians? But if you do eat meat, I’m sure it is from a free-range setting on organic farm where the animals are treated with the utmost care.

    It sounds like the chickens involved in this project will live a better life than 90% of their species. And who are you to say they will be slaughtered too early. A bird slaughtered before it reaches the prime age, is not a bird worth slaughtering. And they won’t be slaughtering them – they will be eating them. Well, slaughtering is part of that process, but the overall message is that this is where this comes from and this is what needs to happen in order for you to enjoy your chicken meat. This is not some senseless killing – there won’t be any trophies. This is an opportunity for folks in a urban setting to understand this process. This sounds like an incredible project and I wish I could be a part of it.

    • Lisa says:

      I agree with you totally, Nicole. This is an appropriate way to call attention to the hidden horrors of our food system and the joys of raising chickens for eggs and meat. Humans have been raising chickens for thousands of years. While it may not be a pleasant experience to harvest the animal for consumption, it is far more humane than what happens in commcial settings. I have a deep respect for the life of each hen that gives its abundance to me, and if I had not participated in harvesting, I would not understand and feel as reverent about the process as I do.

    • Jen says:

      I agree with Nicole. This is NOT gratuitous “slaughter porn” as some have said. The GENERAL public is being given a chance to actively engage with animals that are ultimately going to be consumed. This RARELY happens in an urban setting. This is critical to helping people connect with where their food really comes from, thereby awakening people to make mindful choices about what they are eating – which is the entire point of the project.

    • v hai says:

      Why so many of us object is that this is just unnecessary. If one comes from a place of respect for life and wishing to first do no harm, if one’s philosophy of life is kindness not violence, then any taking of a life is unnecessary and therefore reprehensible. Even for food. These objections are not self-righteous rants in an attempt to brainwash. These are gut-level reactions to the horrors of violently-imposed deaths (which are any non-euthanasia death at the hands of another). Many of us who object do so from place of deep sensitivity to the pain of others. We know and understand how they will suffer.

      This polarisation between kill/no-kill also reflects an underlying and much larger, but rarely discussed, issue of human entitlement and expectation of the right to do just about anything we want to other species. For example, the often-heated discussions about whether or not animals should have rights never concludes. Those who want dominion over animals to do as they please profess inalienable rights to do so. Those who counter are often called animal terrorists and labelled with a brushstroke to be lunatics. Usually, animal rights are sought just to meet their basic life-sustaining needs. How sad is that, that this is something that has to be fought for? (Living on their own, most animals would live a happier life without us.) A simpler perspective on the animal rights vs entitlement issue would be to recognise that humans do NOT have the right to do anything we want to another life. In fact each of us has a moral obligation to first do no harm.

      As a young species, we can be forgiven for our ignorance of past actions, but now that science has made us aware of the consequences of these attitudes, our, not the planet’s, survival depends upon using this new-found awareness to evolve to a gentler use of our home. To do otherwise is unsustainable. Given the implications of climate change, ocean acidification, horrendous loss of biodiversity, rising ocean levels, human overpopulation, extinctions, and economic downturn, if the artist truly wants to increase our level of awareness, she should recognize the implications and unintended negative consequences of promoting a meat-based diet. The resources and energy required to produce meat could be redistributed in short order with world hunger being virtually eliminated if everyone adopted a plant-based diet.

      Finally, this issue is an ethical one that touches anyone who sincerely values life. Take a moment, practice your empathic muscle, and imagine yourself as one of these chickens living under the spotlight of this “art” and now your throat is being cut. How do these last moments of terror feel?

      These violent acts echo in the halls of social justice, prompting us remember that history has always been bloodied with all types of killing of all species. We have evolved the awareness to question the violence. It’s time to take the next step and end it.

      • Jen says:

        I completely understand your point of view on humanity’s historical attitude of entitlement towards animals, the earth, etc. vs. one of care-taker. What I’m saying is that MANY people are NOT enlightened, think NOTHING of their overly processed, factory-’food’ diet, or where it comes from, the chemicals they’re ingesting, or the overwhelming harm they are causing – let alone an actual living, breathing, sentient animal went into their chicken nuggets. Instead of trying to force the GENERAL public to leap to a plant-based, do-no-harm lifestyle, Taking them down the path of awareness a step at a time will make progress, albeit not quickly, but will do so without creating overwhelming conflict in which FEW minds or hearts are changed. The first step, in my opinion, is to get the GENERAL public to see a chicken as a living, breathing, being worthy of consideration – not just chicken nugget. And I think Amber’s project was conceived as a way to address that first step.

      • v hai says:

        Reply to Jen’s reply: I don’t think the chickens would volunteer to participate. Despite the artist’s intent and motivation, there are simply more responsible and better ways to educate and inform.

  33. Dawn Hall says:

    I have had a lot of chickens as beloved pets ever since I was a child, and I have gathered a lot of eggs to use as food also. I have never killed a chicken or any other animal that I have consumed. I am too much of a weenie to kill my own food! I wish that I could mange to learn how to eat healthily as a vegetarian, but I need complete proteins, it seems, to live. I think it is a good idea for people to learn what is involved in the care and butchering of animals as their food. If I personally had to kill something, I would probably starve to death because I could never kill anything with eyes looking at me. (Maybe potatoes, but nothing else!) Most folks think you get meat wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. They don’t connect that nice cut of meat with a living, breathing, suffering animal. It is all so clean and efficient! If they were forced to see the TRUTH of how these poor animals are treated, and how awful the butchering process is in big meat packing companies, they might not want to eat meat again. I know I don’t eat red meat anymore! I can’t think of this project as an art form, but a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, as it is said. I feel that edifying people about where our food comes from and what is truly involved in it, is a GOOD thing. Knowledge is always a good thing it seems to me. Knowledge as an art form is a radical idea I suppose. But so is being kind to animals, evidently.

  34. mccall says:

    Wow, I’ve grant money–what can I do with it? Hit my finger with a hammer? No, that would hurt me–let’s torture a helpless creature and when we’re through having fun let’s just slaughter it! Aren’t I great????

  35. I grew up in farming country in the ’50s and ’60s and had chickens as pets. I don’t understand how anyone could start out treating an animal as a treasured pet that they intend to butcher and eat farther down the line! This is totally bizarre – even if it is someone’s idea of an artistic statement. I find this planned community project very disturbing! Either chickens are “pets” or they are “food” – you can’t have it both ways! Send those feathered persons out to the country – to a farm/ranch where they will be allowed to live free (protected though from predators). Only their eggs (if not fertilized) should be taken as food by humans – not their flesh!

  36. Art critic says:

    Hey, how about for your next project you can try ‘The Story of Cannibalism’? Of course the ONLY way to tell that story is to eat some people, right? So do we have any volunteers? #sarcasm

  37. Pappy says:

    Good luck Amber. Most americans today have no conception of how their food actually arrives on their plate. I suspect you are going to expose a lot of people to (meat eaters included) to a reality they are not ready for. I hope everything goes well. After reading a lot of comments here and on the blogsphere, I would also advise being cautious and aware.

  38. Anna McCoy says:

    I read many of these replies. I disagree that this project will connect people with the whole process of connecting to the chickens and then killing them and eating them. For one thing, you are sending them “away” to another person to kill them. Isn’t that the same kind of disconnect? And the idea that their death is painless is flawed at best. If the point is to connect with the chickens as the beautiful beings that they are, with every right to quality of life as we have, then let that be the point of your art. There are so many ways that you can do this with your art. Doing it with photos, paintings, installation would be wonderful ways. If you do it with live chickens then they need to be free to move and interact so that the public gets an authentic experience of chickens’ true behaviors. Chickens are so varied and some are quite stunning in their colors and textures. There is so much material to draw from (no pun intended:) If you haven’t already, go to see “Haywire” at the LAC. Look what Hong has done with hair. The possibilities with chicken feathers is quite exciting to consider.

  39. RC says:

    This is NOT art, it is a project with a sound idea upfront, the part connecting the public with the vanishing wildlife and drawing attention to the fact that chickens are more than just food and that the average Jane Q Public does not have a clue where the meat in the wrapper at the store comes from. But then to actually slaughter the birds in public is akin to what they did in ancient times in the barbaric customs of killing criminals in a gruesome way for show There are just too many flaws in this plan of hers to comment on. It is a disgrace to call this art. Art should raise us up to a higher level of thinking, not bring us down to a lower level. Not to say that art cannot make a statement about bad things happening, but to do it in this way is just wrong.

  40. Doctor Art says:

    Greetings Atavars!

    None of us can help being throw-backs to our prehistoric selves, but some beings are more stone-age than others!

    Even those of you out there who think the world began 6051 years ago need to know about the fear-stoked, greedy lizard brain that lurks inside your skull. Chickens are pretty much all lizard brain, you can see it in their reptilian eyes and when they peck out each others’ flesh.

    People are less honest. We pretend that we have evolved, but really we are still the same ignorant, tribal thugs. That fancy cerebrum has built us a world that tries to hide all the dirty, messy nature stuff, but look – we still kill the other tribes, are driven by sex and hoarding, lust for meat, and are terrified of any thought too deviant from speculative, rigid belief systems that makes some kind of “sense” of it all.

    Doctor Art is here to tell you that we are all in this together. Embrace your atavistic urges! Look at the world that so much pretense has built!

    If you want something new, then you gotta evolve. If you want to evolve, then you gotta stop thinking you have the answer. Die together in hate or live together in love! Open your heart to art!!!

    You can trust me, I have a terminal degree.

    Dr. Art

  41. Karen Davis says:

    Reading these comments, I am heartened and gratified by the many eloquent voices of compassion for chickens as sensitive living beings who should not have to endure being degraded and butchered in order to teach people about “factory farming” and “where food comes from.” That anyone would seriously entertain butchery as art suggests desperation and demoralization within the arts community and society in general. Ironically 20th century factory farming is rooted in, and is an extension of, the very type of small farm behavior and attitudes toward animals that Amber Hansen claims to oppose with her project. Farmed animals have always been classed outside the realm of moral consideration accorded, at least nominally, to “pets” and most other types of animals. That chickens may be paraded through town like freaks in decorated cages, petted and stroked and then hung ignominiously upsidedown in immobilizing killing cones, surrounded by onlookers watching them be butchered for art – this brutality is precisely the basis of factory farming. There is nothing revolutionary happening here at all. The Percolator should wash its hands of this filthy, ill-conceived, inhumane and inartistic project. Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns. http://www.upc-online.org

  42. Daniel Redwood says:

    Amber Hansen’s project, sponsored by the University of Kansas’ Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, Kansas, raises important and disturbing questions about the role of art in society. Some works of art inspire and empower us; others bring out our worst impulses. For a work of art to literally include bloodletting involving decapitation of living animals crosses far over the line of what a civilized society should accept. We’ve all seen the line at the end of a movie, “No animals were harmed in making this film.” Shouldn’t this apply to live art exhibitions as well? Killing animals in the name of art is never justified. Unless the project is changed to eliminate the killing, Spencer should cancel the project. It should also institute a “no live animals” policy for future exhibits.

    Daniel Redwood
    Overland Park, Kansas

  43. Dan More says:

    This is violence, masked in tradition, obfuscated by art. Please don’t perpetuate the bloodlust that occurs on factory (and other) farms every day in our country. If you want to tell the story of chickens — not the story of man’s use of chickens — you would be more correct to study the tropical jungle fowl in Southeast asia.

    Stop the slaughter.

  44. Beth Lily says:

    Please Cancel “The Story of Chickens”
    It is with disgust and dismay that I read about the Spencer Museum of Art’s plans to sponsor Amber Hansen’s “The Story of Chickens” event which purports to be a revolutionary examination of the relationship between people and chickens. There is nothing revolutionary about parading traumatized caged chickens in high traffic areas, followed by a demonstration of violently beheading them, and culminating in a meal in which the public is invited to feast on the mutilated corpses of those animals. Just as “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” the SMA’s superficial defense of this crude snuff “art” project as “an artist’s right to self-expression” reflects a serious lack of cultural and moral depth. If the SMA is touting the enormous outpouring of public outrage as evidence of a “revolutionary” project, then they are missing the point entirely: that throughout the world, all civilized people abhor gratuitous violence. I respectfully call on the SMA to cancel the event, or at least eliminate the slaughter of live animals and allow the chickens to be adopted by Farm Sanctuary, as well as to adopt a “No Live Animals” policy going forward. Otherwise, they bear lifelong responsibility for the ridicule of the Kansas arts community as a haven for antiquated, violent, and bloody animal slaughter masquerading as “art.”

  45. Let me get this straight — to raise awareness about the relationship between humans and other animals, she’s going to KILL CHICKENS? And it’s an ART PROJECT? And this is being done to demonstrate RESPECT? That is one of the most appalling, misguided, perverted things I’ve ever heard of. If she did it with kittens, people would go crazy. There’s not much — if any — fundamental difference between the two. These chickens have lives and personalities and their own social relationships, and a highly vested interest in continuing to live those lives. If the “artist” (and I use the word very loosely) wants to draw attention to the relationship between humans and so-called food animals, there are many more productive ways she can do so that don’t involve the senseless killing of five helpless animals. Maybe she could just raise some and not take anything from them in exchange, and understand what a real relationship is with a non-human animal. This is absolutely disgusting.

  46. cath ens-hurwood says:

    there is nothing transparent, respectful, or indeed necessary in the killing of the chickens for ART’S SAKE. as for inspiration or shock value, it is neither…it’s all been done before, ad nauseum – lady gaga’s meat dress, another “artist” recently wanting to snuff out rats as part of his display and many other s – hit google and enter Meat Art….all a bit nauseating and a well trodden trail of blood.

  47. Bambi Smother says:

    Good heavens above, what a bunch of children!!!!! Didn’t your mamas ever tell you to just stop squabbling and get on with your chores? Can’t you see this old earth is coming apart at the seams, while you are spending all this time and energy throwing a hissy fit over FIVE CHICKENS?! Your new flatscreen tv probably killed a whole bunch more living things on its way to your house!

    Myself, I love any critter with big eyes that looks cute in cartoons. But Lord love us, if they had a chance they would eat you quick as a wink. Your pretty little kitty will eat your face off if you die alone at home. Chickens and hogs eat flesh whenever they get a chance. Anybody who has any real life knowledge of animals knows that.

    Don’t you know that most people around here don’t want to talk to you any more, because you are full of yourself, mean-spirited, fingers in your ears, little brats? Even if you could bully and force this nice young lady (who I have met, have you?) to change her plans, what would you have won? People will just dislike you and the things you believe even more.

    Grown up people learn to talk nicely to each other, and that means listening as well as speaking. And if your argument can’t change people’s minds that way (without all the silly snuff, porn, torture, children stuff) then maybe it’s not a good one.

    Please grow up and do something that will really make a difference.

    Bambi

  48. Eileen Gottschalk says:

    Carting chickens around in a pen is needless animal cruelty. If the artist wants to present a picture of our relationship with animals why doesn’t she go to a real chicken factory farm and paint pictures of what she sees there.

  49. pam says:

    The Story of Chickens is one of murderous humans under the guise of “humanity.” It is the story of a “complex” relationship FORCED upon nonhuman species.

    It is a euphemism about the disconnect in “building a relationship with the birds…to 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” just to SLAUGHTER THEM FOR CONSUMPTION WHEN THE DESIRE (there is NO NEED) FOR THEIR FLESH IS STRICTLY BASED ON SELFISHNESS.

    This is another warped and tangled “art” project glorifying the ego-centric and human-flawed definition of “humane” to make the participants, who think just bc they have been around animals and donate the by-products and bodies of other species, feel good about themselves. I have NO DOUBT these same delusional humans, had they lived 150+ years ago, would have had NO ISSUES selling or exploiting the offspring of enslaved peoples for entertainment and personal fulfillment.

    Do NOT allow this exhibit. See it for what it REALLY is and stand for what is REALLY correct.

    At Bambi: “hissy fit over five chickens.” If YOU were one of the creatures being paraded and destined for slaughter, wouldn’t YOU want someone to have a hissy fit? There are over 5 BILLION people on the planet…per your attitude, your singular life really doesn’t matter. It is a pity this Amber is only a “nice young lady.” Nice means pleasant. Anyone can be nice. What she isn’t is “good.” A good person would be morally righteous.

  50. A Wilson says:

    Good news everyone! We’ve just learned that the Asst. City Attorney sent Amber a letter this week stating that it is against the law/city ordinance to have a mobile chicken coup AND to slaughter a chicken in the city limits. So it sounds like this disgusting exhibit will not happen…..at least not in the Lawrence city limits. Thank goodness!

    Many of us have thought all along what she was proposing was illegal in the city limits….. we were just waiting on confirmation. And we got that today. I just can’t believe this artist and those who funded this project with grant money didn’t check the city codes first, before announcing they were doing this goulish exhibit.

    • Jen says:

      Actually, she DID check city ordinances and had a different interpretation than the City. The City is also saying she can’t display chickens in a coop within public view – what does that mean for the many Lawrence citizens who have chicken coops in their yards in full view of their neighbors? Interesting . . .

  51. Sandra Davenport says:

    I had a chicken as a pet just over a year ago, a hawk killed her. She wasfree range and would sit in my lap. Clover was a sweet girl and when she died I buried her next to my cat. To thinkyou would expose these chickens too so much stressand then kill them is so disgusting it’s inhumane and inhuman. These are defenseless animals who are going to trust and care about you after a short time. Would you get a dog or cat and put them in the “art”( I think not) them kill and EAT THEM?? of course not, hey an aniumal is an animal and we are ALL animals

  52. JoAnn says:

    I have just stumbed upon the most amazing video that could not possibly be more on-point to this entire discussion. It is by Harvard trained psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy.

    Anyone who wants to really understand this subject can watch it here:

Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. [...] month, The Story of Chickens will debut in Lawrence, KS. This art project consists of a traveling coop on wheels, in which five [...]

  2. [...] the Rocket Grant people. Are you insane? You’re rewarding a person for killing live creatures, under the guise of “art.” According to the guidelines on one of Spencer’s [...]

  3. [...] is the case with Amber Hansen’s community art project “The Story of Chickens: A Revolution.” Although the project has yet to open, it is already causing a lively debate amongst animal rights [...]

  4. [...] in protest of an upcoming exhibit at the university’s Spencer Art Museum called “The Story of Chickens.”  This project will encourage townspeople to get to know and care about five chickens over [...]

  5. [...] Contact: Lawrence Percolator Attn: Eric Farnsworth Email: lawrencepercolator@gmail.com Website: http://www.lcava.org Post a Comment at: The Story of Chickens [...]

  6. [...] art lecturer Amber Hansen will showcase her mobile chicken coop, “The Story of Chickens: A Revolution,” at different locations in Lawrence. This art project means to generate dialogue between people to [...]

  7. [...] way we breed juiced-up poultry in stacked shoebox-sized cages. As mentioned in the Rocket Grant prospectus, in addition to promoting alternative and healthy ways or caring for the creatures, “the project [...]

  8. [...] Trip PublishingNV in KCPlaying GenderPlug ProjectsResistant HistoryThe Story of Chickens – A RevolutionYou Live [...]

  9. [...] slaughtered for an art project to take place in the city.  The project, by Amber Hansen, entitled “The Story of Chickens – A Revolution,” was to consist of a traveling chicken coop containing five heritage chickens that would be set up [...]

  10. [...] a meal. She says she wanted to demonstrate the animal slaughter process to meat eaters.According to Rocketgrants.org “The Story of Chickens explores the relationship of humans as both caretakers and consumers. [...]

  11. [...] birds were slaughtered and served as a part of a community potluck on April 21. The project, called The Story of Chickens: A Revolution, was intended to instigate public discourse about people and their food consumption, specifically [...]

  12. [...] some Lawrence residents, KU art lecturer Amber Hansen’s original art project, “The Story of Chickens: A Revolution,” brings negative opinions because of a public slaughter of [...]

  13. [...] to Rocketgrants.org “The Story of Chickens explores the relationship of humans as both caretakers and consumers. [...]

  14. [...] to Rocketgrants.org “The Story of Chickens explores the relationship of humans as both caretakers and consumers. [...]

  15. [...] Example of a Food-Art Culture War: The Story of Chickens: A Revolution by Amber [...]



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