Have you ever held a blue chicken egg? They’re not an obvious BLUE like the shock of turquoise worn by robins’ eggs. They’re more of a dirty pastel green. But the fact that they have any color—other than the go-to brown that doesn’t turn heads at the grocery store, and offers comfort to those of us who like to recognize what we eat—is extraordinary. When I first discovered the small, unfamiliar egg nestled in the pine shavings, I gently picked it up, and stared at the perfect orb resting in the cup of my palm. My instinct was obviously to protect it. I franticly considered running away to keep it warm and safe from my hungry husband. Its ordained purpose (breakfast) became an unthinkably misguided plan. It’s a baby for god’s sake! I’m not going to eat it! I’ll eat those ones (pointing in my mind to the gray carton in our refrigerator) but not this one.
It took me about a week to eat any of our chicken's eggs, and a month later, I’m still not eating the “blue” ones. Thank god, when shopping for baby chicks at Agway, we randomly added one Black Sex Link (actual name of a chicken breed) that produces brown supermarket eggs. Every day around 11 a.m., she reliably lays an egg that fits naturally into the egg carton, thereby seamlessly replacing the store bought eggs like an available sculpture replaces its sold look-alike in a gallery. However, the small, discolored Ameraucana eggs also have to be stored in the carton. The overall aesthetic is uneven and disconcerting: a solo exhibition that looks like a poorly curated group show.
The uniformity of the egg carton’s equidistant and equalized divisions only exacerbates the oddity of the varying eggs. This is not the expected clusterfuck of an experimental art fair without wall divisions. This is a neat, clean, and un-perplexed container that once stored sameness, and now holds nonconformity. In life, art, and people, I generally applaud difference and gravitate towards strangeness. However, when it comes to eating something that is referred to as chicken period, any further deviation from the comforting norm is just too much (for now).
Some things take time getting used to. One of the reasons why I studied art, made art, and took on the life of an art professional is that art rewarded my irreverent sensibility, my desire to look at the world sideways, and my appetite for difference. The art world, happily, is a place where people like to know things that are not easily understood, and to suspend familiar ways of thinking and being.
A few years ago at Frieze London, I witnessed Michael Landy’s Credit Card Destroying Machine. The piece offered eager participants the opportunity to have their credit card demolished in exchange for a unique drawing that the machine would produce and sign. Give food to a chicken and out comes a prize. I thought Landy’s piece was hysterical and totally out of control. Where the hell else but the heart of the art world would this happen? (Actually it was first shown in the fashion world).
Was Landy making fun of the participants? Based on how shitty the drawings were, probably. But these art fanatics went for it anyway, offering up their plastic money tickets with giddy abandon. And I appreciated them for it. The general mood was Fuck it! Why not?! Because the art world is a place where people make things that don’t have a place elsewhere, and where people dare to do things that they normally wouldn’t experience anywhere.
A seminal moment in my early years of studying contemporary art was being introduced to Janine Antoni’s piece Loving Care and Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece. Antoni crouched and dragged her dye-soaked hair across the gallery floor, gradually pushing viewers from the room. Yoko Ono sat stationary at the front of a stage silently beckoning the audience to enter her sphere and snip pieces of her garments. Both works pushed art into action, implicated the viewer, and erased a comfortable boundary between art and life. Their performances had been enacted years before I studied them, and Allan Kaprow’s book Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life wasn’t new by the time I discovered it. Nonetheless, to me, these sources of inspiration were wholly current and meaningful.
After writing the opening of this piece, I walked to the animal barn to visit the baby Nigerian Dwarf goats and see if the chickens had left any egg prizes. I opened the small door to the first nesting box and discovered an oversized blue egg. I thought: damn, this one actually looks blue. I should change what I wrote. I walked the egg up to the human barn to find my husband. "Look!," I said holding out my palm. He glanced a second time. "That’s HUGE! It must have hurt coming out." Through my grin I looked down at the egg, which no longer appeared to be blue at all. In fact, it was a delicate mix of ivory and jade.
Kristen Dodge ran the eponymous DODGEgallery on Rivington Street between 2010 and 2014, when she closed shop and moved with her husband, Darren, to Kinderhook, New York, where they live surrounded by art in a contemporary barn that is itself surrounded by the makings of a small farm. This is the second installment of Art vs. Farm, Dodge's column on Artspace chronicling her observations on the intersections of these seemingly polar, living subjects.