As a special project within the collateral event GLASSTRESS 2015 GOTIKA, Koen Vanmechelen exhibits a triptych at three locations continuing his exploration of biological and cultural diversity. AWAKENER/LIFEBANK is shown at the third floor of Palazzo Franchetti, on the Island of Murano and outside the artist’s studio in Belgium. This expansive installation intends to raise awareness of our ever-increasing abuse of food production and includes an innovative biological breeding center and restaurant.
Palazzo Franchetti, Venice (IT)
The third floor of the Palazzo Franchetti is the former site of the Banca di Venezia. Here, the artist is installing a ‘gene bank’ of heritage seeds from around the world, including those sourced from AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center in Arusha and a selection made by Piergiorgio De Filippi in collaboration with Slow Food. An interactive multi-sensorial garden forms the central part of this work including two colossal bronze hands, glass jars containing thousands of rare varieties of seeds and references to the artist’s Cosmopolitan Chicken Project; a cross-breeding programme where the chicken becomes the universal symbol for all species. Based on these same ingredients, renowned chef Pietro Leemann has created a new culinary combination ‘The Shape of Life’ which will be served to biennale visitors at the B Restaurant on Murano. This restaurant is located next to Fondazione Berengo where the AWAKENER/LIFEBANK installation of the Dromedary, Mushroom and Chicken breeding will take place.
Fondazione Berengo, Murano (IT)
Fondazione Berengo houses a biological breeding center that combines the chicken, dromedary and mushrooms. Chickens have proven their scientific importance in a wide variety of ways including the resulting data from Vanmechelen’s eighteen generations of crossings in the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project. Now, here in Murano, we see the evolution from this single species investigation, to an artwork that takes the chicken, dromedary and mushroom as the basis for this new chapter - MECC - that attempts to see how the genetic material in one might be naturally transmitted to the other. It is an installation that endeavors to bridge the divide between the camelid and homo sapiens. The indispensable bridge becomes the Ayam Cemani, a rare breed of black non-hybridised chicken from Java. They will be fed mushrooms cultivated on a bed of muck from the dromedary. And their eggs will then be cooked together with the mushrooms and served in the B Restaurant. The possible outcome of this will provide new insights into the food chain. The lightbox AWAKENER/LIFEBANK is the centre of this installation, showing an artificial doubled landscape where polarities wrestle with new understandings.
B Restaurant, Murano (IT)
At the B Restaurant the artist shows a mushroom growing center as part of his artistic-research project. With different players in the field of innovation in science and agriculture, the artist questions an awakening conversation between chickens, mushrooms, ancient seeds, dromedary and humans. One of the collaborators is specialist in mushroom cultivation, Chido Govera, a young social entrepreneur from Zimbabwe. She grows Oyster mushrooms on the dromedary and chicken faeces that are presented in a specially designed cage at Fondazione Berengo. The chickens are fed these mushrooms and the artistic-scientific question is; what will be the influence on the egg? Can we create a new innovating system using not chemical but biological systems?
At his studio, Vanmechelen constructs a vision of idyllic nature, a temple for biological diversity. Bees thrive in an abundance of flowers and plants. It functions as the setting for a three-minute video work AWAKENER/MENACE, as a study in disturbance, discomfort and melancholy. We are pulled from a position of safety into the midst of an almost horrific fractured Garden of Eden. We are in the middle of a scene whose actions are directed by nature itself. It is a contemporary painting of Breughel with overtones of danger. It aims to churn up an awareness of the horrors lurking just there in front of you. Pay attention, the artist wants to shake us, something is not right, can’t you feel this? The work is installed as a video projection at Fondazione Berengo during the biennale.
Palazzo Franchetti / Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti/ Campo
S. Stefano, 284, Venice
Fondazione Berengo / Exhibition Space on Murano / Campiello della
Pescheria Murano, Venice
B Restaurant/ Campiello della Pescheria Murano, Venice
MAY 9 > 22 NOV, 2015
10:00 am — 6:00 pm, Monday — Sunday
Entrance ticket: full price ticket 10 euros, reduced price ticket 8 euros for groups,
over 65 and children