From LABIOMISTA, Vanmechelen is building a network of Open Farms across the world. For him, art extends beyond the object: from animals deep into communities.
Open Farms are sanctuaries for creation and reinvention. Real-life crossroads, where art, science and industry meet - at unconventional, inspiring and unique locations. All are situated at the intersection of man, culture and nature: present, past and future. Lovingly embedded in the very communities that are essential to the flourishing of each project.
Next to LABIOMISTA, there are Global Open Farms in Harare (Zimbabwe), Detroit (US) and Addis Abeba (Ethiopia).
As an artist, I build nests in different places, for different people and for various occasions. After all, confluences of people and ideas, of perspectives and opinions, are the fuel that turns art into a chain reaction
The care for the animals in LABIOMISTA and the other Open Farms is undertaken in collaboration with locally embedded groups of carers.
In African countries such as Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, the focus is on educating and empowering women. In Europe and the United States, we work with young people, socio-economic disadvantaged groups and people who fall outside the traditional framework for training and employment.
Global Open Farm, the Prototype, at home with Koen and Inge in Oudsbergen
In 1999, Vanmechelen’s Cosmopolitan Chicken Project started with just a few dozen chickens that were bred, multiplied and crossed. Today, it’s a Global Open Farm that extends over several hectares of fields around the artist's home. In 2019, the house offers views of eagles, chickens, and if you are lucky also alpacas, rheas and ostriches parading past the back of the building. Take a few big strides down the garden, and you’ll meet the camels, pigs and Tibetan cows. The llamas, dromedaries and a mom and dad pair of emus are just a little further away.
The sheer variety of birds and mammals that have over time become part of Vanmechelen's universe, with all its artistic, philosophical and socio-ecological commitments, requires a far-reaching diversification in daily care. The gathering point for all that knowledge and experience about animal care is Inge, guardian and manager of this Global Open Farm prototype. In a natural way, she supplements that expertise with generous helpings of warmth, love, care and a profound sense of animal and human intelligence.The animal care in Oudsbergen is done in cooperating with schools for the disabled, and also offers opportunities to young people in time-out projects.
Global Open Farm, The Future of Hope, Harare (Zimbabwe)
Together with The Future of Hope Foundation, founded and led by social entrepreneur Chido Govera, Vanmechelen is building a network that will give as many Africans as possible with an income and provide them with locally-sourced food. The parent farm in Harare is a training centre where orphans are taught how to grow oyster mushrooms and other edible mushroom species and at the same time learn essential life skills, such as social behaviour, dealing with sexuality, AIDS and hygiene.
Global Open Farm, INCUBATED WORLDS, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
The installation INCUBATED WORLDS is the result of a collaboration between three partners: the ‘African Chicken Genetics Gains’ project of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Koen Vanmechelen and the MOUTH foundation. Additionnally, a chicken breed selected by ACGG is crossed with various CCP chickens from Vanmechelen's Cosmopolitan Chicken Project. The aim is to create a sustainable, productive chicken breed (a Planetary Community Chicken, in the PCC project) that will thrive in Sub-Saharan Africa. The installation was opened on April 26, 2018 at the ILRI (Addis Ababa campus, Ethiopia) as an artistic-scientific project that aims to improve both the food security and the income of people in East Africa with chicken breeds that are disease- and climate-resistant. Read more.
Open Global Farm, Detroit (US)
In 2016, the American art programme Wasserman Projects organised an exhibition with work by Koen Vanmechelen. It involved crossing the Malines Wyandotte, a cockerel from the genetically diverse Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, with a local hen from a commercial breed. The aim was to improve the food supply and to improve the economy of the local community. The Planetary Community Chickens (PCC) that emerged from this are now strutting around on the Oakland Avenue Community Farm. This is an urban farm in a city where the demise of the car industry has led to a dramatic downturn in the socio-economic situation of a multiracial, highly vulnerable population. In so doing, art and urban development build an alliance for the creation of a self-sustaining ecosystem, supported by educational and training initiatives and the promotion of ecotourism.