Dinnersaurus and the Great Chicken Project, 2013-15
There are 24 billion chickens in the world at any one time, that's three times as many as us humans, so if we go by numbers alone, they're pretty important! What started as a simple fascination of what lay beneath our feet in the chicken bones carelessly discarded, turned into a 3 -year project that led to a 30ft chicken skeleton and a cross-curricular art-led project for which I won two awards!
Scanning the Deptford desert, I began to wonder if all the bones I saw, documenting them as I went. I allowed my mind to wander, were they just the end of a greasy snack we take for granted or clues to an ancient species of chickenosaurus, some kind of mythological beast that still roams parts of south east London today? I built up an identity for what I thought these creatures had once been and created several artist impressions with detailed zoo archaeological data to back them up. Using a local butchers to display my work, like a stand in for a museum of meat I hoped to ask people to engage more closely with the natural world and pour scorn on how unnatural we have made it. Following this I made a chicken skeleton using disposable knives and forks to reflect the throw-away culture these sentient beings are part of.
Seeing so many school children pile into chicken and chip shops after school convinced me that my project had only just begun. Whilst researching my theme, I made contact with a group named the Chicken Coop. This was a group of academics from the sciences and social sciences who were coincidentally studying the cultural and scientific shifts that had occurred in the relationship between humankind and chickens over the last 8000 years. We decided to work together and I began planning curriculum content around the theme for my students. A lengthy planning process saw me 'flesh out' subject matter to last the whole year and collaborations with the Geography, English and Science departments. The centre-piece of the project was going to be a huge chicken skeleton. I was to build the framework and my students would help me finish it during art clubs. Once I convinced the principal to display it in the school's central space, there was no stopping. Several months later, my students produced amazing work including beautiful drawings created at a meat processing factory and a farm for rare breeds. A launch date was decided upon and guest speakers, John Hutchinson and Luis Rey were invited to share their knowledge on biomechanics and and making a living as a paleoartist.
To top it all off, I was honoured to be asked if I would display the Dinnersaurus alongside the T-REX at Oxford University's Museum of Natural History and run a creative workshop for the public with my students. Naturally, I was happy to oblige! Quite simply, it was a mind-blowing experience!