I really like chickens. They are fascinating, beautiful, unbelievably diverse, complicated birds. I’m academically interested in them. Oh, and we should probably stop eating them. While in London recently for the Cryptozoologicon launch (yes, it went really well, thanks), the family and I went to Trafalgar Square. Obviously, I haven’t been there for a while, for I was surprised and delighted to discover….
…. a gargantuan blue cockerel, perched atop the Fourth Plinth. The Fourth Plinth was originally created for a statue of William IV but thereafter remained bare for over 150 years. Since 1999 it’s been used as a display stand for temporary pieces of art. Anyway, check out not only the size and stature of this amazing piece (it’s 4.7 m tall), but also the attention to detail, and the accurate, gravity-defying form of the comb and tail feathers. The piece was unveiled in late July 2013 and I’m kind of embarrassed to have only known about it for a few days. I have a great interest in giant, animal-themed pieces of public art.
So, what gives? Is this remarkable and wonderful piece a homage to the beauty, wonder, charisma and sheer significance of chickens, or perhaps of gallinaceous birds, or even birds or dinosaurs in general? Err, no, not exactly. Produced by German artist and Professor of Sculpture Katharina Fritsch, it’s said in some articles to be deliberately intended as witty feminist commentary on our portrayal of male significance through sculpture. In other words, as a reference to the tradition, I guess, of putting images of great MALE people up on platforms. Maybe I’m stupid, naïve or woefully male (or all three), but this didn’t occur to me at all – I would prefer to think that an enormous and beautiful statue of a giant cock is what it looks like. I’m not really a fan of the idea that things that look like things are meant to be oh-so-clever references to other things, but what the hell. However, online articles at BBC News say that it’s about “regeneration, awakening and strength” and it's also said to be a reference to French sporting pride, so take your pick. Enjoy the gigantic blue male chicken, whatever you think it’s meant to be about.
One final thing. What sort of chicken is this exactly? Without seeing any of the bird's true colours, I'm finding it hard to work this out. The comb is too tall for an Australorp (and that would be an unlikely choice of breed anyway)… could it be a Drenthe? Thoughts appreciated.
For previous Tet Zoo articles on chickens and other gamebirds, see...