This installation consists of a transparent container, lit by breeding lamps, which stores three 3D prints. They illustrate the DNA structures of three chickens. Two are inbreeds, the other one is a crossbreed. Fascinatingly, the latter is different and clearly stands out as an outsider in this group. It has outward peaks all over. The rough points on the chromosomes of the hybrid probably give more immunity. Reaching out, diminishing the distance, longing for the Other is dangerous, brave and ultimately rewarding.
Koen Vanmechelen: "Art is a hybrid."
With conception, two copies of each chromosome are brought together; one from the father and one from the mother. These chromosomes have small differences (called polymorphisms) that make each individual genetically unique. With inbreeding however, many of these polymorphisms become fixed and the chromosomes from the father look much more like those from the mother. As a result, inbreeding leads to more uniform populations with fixed characteristics but with less genetic diversity (they are said to be "homozygous" for many of the polymorphisms, as opposed to "heterozygous"). With high levels of inbreeding, some phenotypic disadvantages will occur, such as an impaired ability to adapt to a changing environment. Crossing different inbred animals will result in a higher degree of heterozygosity in the crossbreds. This has a positive effect on the survival rate and fertility of the crossbreds. To visualize this, a 3D representation was created of the genomes of three chickens: two inbred and one crossbred. Chromosomes are laid out in circles, connecting at one tip of the chromosome and wrapped in spherical shapes. The longest chromosomes (chromosomes 1 and 2) cross at the top of the sphere. The number of homozygous and heterozygous polymorphisms along the chromosomes are indicated by peaks pointing inwards and outwards, respectively. As a result, inbred chickens have relatively more peaks pointing inwards while crossbred chickens have more peaks pointing outwards.
Researchers; Ryo Sakai Peter Konings Prof Dr ir Jan Aerts
ESAT/SCD, Faculty of Engineering, University of Leuven, Belgium Future Health Department, iMinds, University of Leuven, Belgium
This video projection depicts three key concepts of the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project: the pedigree of inbred and hybrid chickens, the genetic data, and the conversion of that genetic information into components of the 3D sculptures. The start of the video shows a view of the pedigree and breeding pattern. After a chicken is selected, the genetic makeup of that chicken fills up the screen. Each dot represents a polymorphic letter of the genome. Once all genetic information is shown, chromosomes are laid out in circles and the number of homozygous and heterozygous polymorphisms are indicated by peaks pointing inwards and outwards, respectively.
The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP, 1999) is a global, transdisciplinary and transtemporal examination of the themes of biocultural diversity and identity through the interplay of art, science and beauty. In the CCP Koen Vanmechelen cross-breeds chicken breeds from different countries. The 17th Vanmechelen generation has just been born in Slovenia; the Mechelse Styrian is the result of the crossing between the Mechelse Senegal - CCP16 and the Slovenian Styrian chicken. Vanmechelen's ultimate goal is the creation of a Cosmopolitan Chicken carrying the genes of all the planet's chicken breeds. Much more than a mere domesticated animal, the chicken is art in itself. It serves as a metaphor for the human animal and its relationship with the biological and cultural diversity of the planet. While the native breeds that descended from the original chicken (the Red Junglefowl) are evolutionary dead-ends (being shaped to reflect the typical cultural characteristics of its community), Vanmechelen's hybrids are solutions. Many years of crossbreeding has proven that each successive generation of hybrids is 'better'. It is more resilient, lives longer, is less susceptible to diseases and it exhibits less aggressive behavior. Genetic diversity is essential, proves the Cosmopolitan Chicken Research Project (CC®P), which studies the various CCP hybrids. The core of the project however, is neither the chicken nor its egg, but the process of crossbreeding and the diversity this creates. "The CCP is a mirror. Every organism needs another organism to survive," says Vanmechelen.
Presented at dOCUMENTA (13), Worldly House, 2012, Kassel (DE)
September 26 at 7.00 pm
10.00 am - 4.00 am