The last chicken you ate probably had a name: Ross 308. The 24-foot-tall sculpture at the Denver Public Library’s main branch has a similar one, and that’s no coincidence.
“Monument for the 308” by German artist Andreas Greiner is on display in the main hall, and it’s prompting questions.
Is it a dinosaur? No. (Well, kind of, because as “Jurassic Park” taught us, dinosaurs are birds.)
Is it at least an amalgamation of fossils? No.
Is it a gigantic sculpture of the common broiler chicken, also known as Ross 308, meant to provoke conversation about how human farming systems have genetically modified the birds to feed our needs? Yes!
“We’re definitely making a statement, but when contemporary art is weak it tells you what to think, and when it’s strong it provokes curiosity and thought,” said Cortney Lane Stell, executive director and head curator at Black Cube, a “nomadic art museum” that curates site-specific art.
The library, of course, is a place of curiosity, so the placement of the chicken makes sense as a way to lure curious people into the space, according to Rachel Fewell, the central library’s admin istrator. Recently, her colleague spotted a group of school kids and teachers waiting for their field trip bus. It wasn’t hard to coax them in, she said.
It’s like they heard the bird’s the word or something.
“It’s tied to welcoming because I think we’re going to see a lot of people who normally wouldn’t be library users come in just to see this,” Fewell said.
Two brothers, 9 and 11, were returning books Friday and told Denverite, well, yes, the mammoth chicken is curious.
“I actually got confused,” one of them said. “I thought it was a dinosaur until I read the thing.”
The “thing” he read was a sign that laid out the sculpture’s origin. It’s meant to illustrate the effect humans have had on Earth and its creatures in the Anthropocene era, the period in which humans have dominated the world and therefore changed its makeup.
Modern broiler chickens are just one example of that phenomenon, but they’re apparently a sort of mascot of the Anthropocene period. Poultry farmers have modified their genetics to mass produce the birds quickly and chubbily, making them look far different than their ancestor, the Archaeopteryx.
“The 308 chickens are designed to grow for only about three months,” Stell said. “They eat insatiably, they grow very fat and can be slaughtered very quick.”
Sculptor Greine created the piece by X-raying a broiler chicken and generated each fake bone — 20 times larger than the actual bones — with 3D printing tech. It will be on display through Dec. 8.