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Installation by Koen Vanmechelen.  Inaugurated at the International Livestock Research Institute campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 26 April 2018


​​​The two ‘Book of Genome’ artworks, developed using state of the art DNA-mapping technologies, present the diversity of artist Koen Vanmechelen’s Cosmopolitan Chicken, carrying genetic diversity from more than 20 regions worldwide on one hand and the Indigenous Ethiopian Chicken on the other. They include the genetic code, transcribed into Ethiopia’s Amharic language, of the first Ethiopian chicken to have its genome sequenced and the DNA code of the 20th generation of the Cosmopolitan Chicken. The letters in the book indicate every place where the genetic makeup differs from the reference chicken considered as standard, while the numeral indicate the number of DNA basis that are identical to those of the standard reference genome. The two artworks are always presented together, indicating the importance and interrelation of global and local.
In the accompanying videos, entitled ‘DECODE’, people read a segment of Vanmechelen’s Book of Genome. In the video presenting the genetic diversity of the Mechelse Wyandotte, people from throughout the world, reflecting global nature of the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, read from the Book of Genome, each in their own language. In the video presenting the genetic diversity of the indigenous Ethiopian chicken, people representing the diversity of Ethiopia read from the book in Amharic. A mantra for an ongoing process.

Book of genomes and

video installation

“We hope that with this work, that is both art and science, we can contribute to understanding the history of diversity in Ethiopia. Art will help our people understand the true importance of indigenous diversity in Ethiopia. We believe that it is through art that the importance and potential of diversity can be brought to a larger audience. We hope that this work of art is an important contribution to raising awareness that we have to do what we can to maintain our diversity as we build the future”.


ILRI’s director general’s representative in Ethiopia

Live installation: Planetary community chicken and breeding centre

Chickens from artist Koen Vanmechelen’s Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, carrying genetic diversity from more than 20 regions worldwide, will be crossbred with an indigenous Ethiopian chicken selected for productivity by scientists from ILRI and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research who are participating in the African Chicken Genetic Gains project.


The newly crossbred chicks, known as Ethiopian African Planetary Community Chickens, will represent the union of the global with the local, optimizing the balance between chicken genetic diversity and genetic traits controlling productivity. The Ethiopian African Planetary Community Chickens will combine the enhanced resilience of the genetically diverse Cosmopolitan Chicken with the local adaptability and productivity of the Ethiopian chicken strain.

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