Why Did the Artist Cross the Chicken? “Every organism is looking for another organism to survive”

Profile portraits of six different chickens that contribute to the cosmopolitan chicken project

Koen Vanmechelen and Olivier Hanotte on either side of a white marble bust of a crowing rooster from the cosmopolitan chicken project
Koen Van Mechelen (left) and Olivier Hanotte (right) sandwich a large marble bust of a crowing cosmopolitan rooster.
In 1999, Koen Vanmechelen, a Belgian artist, decided to cross a Belgian rooster with a French hen. The union of the Mechelse Koekoek and the Poulet de Bresse gave rise to a clutch of chicks that thrilled Vanmechelen with their diversity, and launched him on a path to create the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project. One breed at a time, the CCP accumulated a huge amount of genetic diversity from chickens around the world. That diversity is now reversing out into the world through the Planetary Community Chicken, which uses the accumulated diversity to increase the resilience and productivity of village chickens in Africa. Olivier Hanotte, who triggered the PCC, joined me and Koen to talk about chicken diversity and what it means for art, for science, and for people.


  1. You can find out more about Koen Vanmechelen’s many projects on his website and follow him on Instagram.
  2. Olivier Hanotte talked to me about the past and future of African livestock, including chickens. He is on Twitter too.
  3. More about ILRI’s partnership with Vanmechelen on the ILRI website and on Koen Vanmechelen’s own website.
  4. Here is the transcript.
  5. Banner chicken profiles from Koen Vanmechelen.

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