Chicken Sh@#: The Statement

hubcaps

After installing the Chicken Sh@# exhibit, and letting the various themes settle in, Gabe and I decided that the show needed a statement, but not just any statement. We collaborated on a few topics that needed to be addressed, and in my grad-school-statement writing fervor, I managed to piece together the following:

Chicken Sh@#: Exploring Urban Ecosystems

The phrases ecosystem, ecology, and economics are all derived from a common Greek term; Oikos, which means ‘house.’ The term ‘economics’ originally referred to the management and rules of a household, and was later expanded to refer to political economies. The term ‘ecosystem’ was coined in 1930 by Roy Clapham, and was used to refer to the combined physical and biological components of an environment. It was later expanded by Arthur Tansley to refer to “The whole system, including not only the organism-complex, but also the whole complex of physical factors forming what we call the environment. ” Ecology, Oikos + Logos, refers to the study of ecosystems.

Given these definitions, the exhibition Chicken Sh@# intends to reintroduce a common factor to these terms by exploring urban ecosystems. Economics, in the modern sense, has greatly influenced the ecosystems in which we live. Traditional farming was naturally pushed away from city centers, and with the demand from growing populations quickly turned in to a massive industry. With the recent ‘green’ movement and peoples’ desires to reconnect with nature, these city centers; our urban ecosystems, are gaining a renewed interest in producing locally grown food.

But our urban ecosystems present a significant dilemma. In naturally occurring ecosystems, waste is reabsorbed and reused in a cyclical manner. A deciduous tree is a simple example. In the fall, the tree’s leaves change color and eventually fall from the branches. Prior to being raked, bagged, and picked up by city trucks, these leaves used to naturally decay over time and replenish the nutrients in the soil. The tree would then reuse nutrients left by its own leaves as food in order to grow and continue the cycle.

The chickens, and their chicken sh@# (or poop, for our younger audience), provide a slightly more complex example. They will gladly eat food waste, trimmings, and weeds, and then efficiently transform them into eggs, meat, and nitrogen-rich poop. This poop, like the leaves from a tree, can be used to nourish the soil or perhaps jump-start a healthy and productive compost pile. From this soil and compost we can grow more food to eat, and give the waste back to the chickens to continue the cycle. While displaying a brilliant example of ecosystems, these chickens also provide us with an immediate understanding of economics. Simply, it is ‘economical’ to turn waste in to something of value, like eggs or meat that you would normally buy at the grocery market. More in depth, these chickens and their poop provide us with an example of the adverse effects of a shift in the circular flow of an economic system, that is, the amount the chickens poop could directly influence their level of productivity.

Unlike the trees or chickens, when a car drops its hubcaps, or a television drops its cardboard packaging, these materials are not as easily reintroduced in to the cycle. And unlike more naturally occurring ecosystems, human ingenuity is required to maintain sustainable urban ecosystems. This leads us to the question; what could be done with these hubcaps? Taking this question further, as shiny as these hubcaps may be, and as green as our grass might grow, is there a better use of our resources and ingenuity? It is our goal here to take the same approach as a tree or a chicken to the urban environment by finding creative and responsible ways to make use of all its components. Technology, compost, litter, scrap wood, worms, fungus, cardboard, plants, hydroponics, and hubcaps all play an economic role in our urban ecosystems.

-Rimas K. Simaitis & Gabriel Brown

One Comment

  1. Vilija
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    My ideas got onto the hubcap wall too – I was talking to mom while she was writing (probably before or after that picture). It made me laugh to see that photo on the blog and to know that in a far-off way I was part of it too.

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