Maybe it’s one of those “only in Lawrence” things.
When artist Amber Hansen set out to show us something about the food we eat, where it comes from and what it goes through to get to our tables, well — not so fast! Can’t keep chickens on display here. Can’t butcher them in the city limits. Freedom of expression goes only so far.
Would the city have chickened out? We’ll never know.
Hansen is changing her plans and will work with an empty chicken coop instead of live (and intended-to-be-butchered) birds.
She explained on her blog:
“Through this project, I made a commitment to unveil what I have found to be the abstracted and passive experience of our disengagement with the animals we consume. ‘The Story of Chickens’ intent is to provide an opportunity for this engagement.
“The average American’s interaction with food is at best a passive one. By this I mean that consuming is often reduced to a purely aesthetic experience abstracted from the reality of life and death. I believe our current reliance on factory-farmed animals to be a parasitic relationship. By urging a closer relationship between the consumer and the consumed, I hope to promote a more conscientious and tangible relationship.
“The slaughter of the five chickens meant to take place at the end of the ‘Story of Chickens’ proposed full disclosure of a controversial, yet all too common ethical paradox for the omnivore (for humans to consume meat, an animal must die). The very notion that we can choose to cause a condition, yet refuse to acknowledge or make public its affect and result, veils and censors our connection to that activity. The ‘Story of Chickens’ is in no way meant to dictate or promote ethical stances for or against meat consumption. Its thesis is to promote a closer and sustainable connection to our food, specifically chickens. With this closeness comes the responsibility of realizing and de-abstracting the conditions and origins of that which we choose to consume,” she wrote, adding “The question I had when beginning this project remains: Can a symbiotic relationship between animals and humans be created within the urban landscape?”
Apparently not in Lawrence, at least in 2012. In response to public criticism and city ordinances, she’s modified the project but hopes to get her point across despite the limits placed on her approach.
To her credit, she hasn’t cried “fowl.” Here’s hoping the revised effort doesn’t lay an egg.