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This article is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

Cover Story

Koen Vanmechelen, ‘Evolution 1’
Rod Mengham
KOEN VANMECHELEN, artist and political activist, has confronted the issues that arise from humanity’s relationships with other species, in a range of forms and media: painting, sculpture, photography, film, installation, performance. His subject matter is wide and various but he is best known for his insistence on the plight of the chicken, numerically the most abused animal on the planet. Exhibitions of his work are often tied to the establishment of community projects in which groups of local women are given the means to run their own free-range farms stocked with cross-bred chickens whose resilience, fertility and immunity to disease provide an instructive contrast to the fate of the average battery hen. The community projects are a practical demonstration of the care and respect owing to the species, while the artworks endow it with dignity – and even power. The image on the cover of this issue seems to conjure up a being from an earlier stage of evolution than our own: an indefinite creature that seems to hover between bird, dinosaur and mammal.  It is the effect on the viewer that is definite: this is a creature it is difficult or impossible to imagine as under our control or at our disposal – the drawing is 4.9 metres x 3.2 metres.

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