Oeufre | 2016-17 | Sculpture-based Photography
Series of 57 limited edition prints on Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl 285 gsm, 42×29.7cm each. To view the entire series, please open the project’s PDF flipbook at Issuu.
Today’s commercial laying hens have been selectively bred for hyper-production. Reduced to mere production units, some improved breeds can lay over 300 eggs in a year – almost an egg a day. In 2013, 93% of Spain’s egg production came from factory farms, where laying hens are housed in “enriched colony” cages. These birds spend their lives in total confinement, being crammed together in small spaces, with barely any room to fully stretch their wings.
Since art has become a commodity along with everything else, artists have been forced into the role of producing rather than creating, trading quality for quantity and postponing their creative freedom to meet market demands. At the same time, there’s a prevailing idea that artists are doomed to lead a precarious existence and a lifetime of struggle. The vast majority of artists do not receive a fair compensation for their work and sometimes are even expected to sell below production costs.
Under these extreme and unnatural conditions, both hens and artists are more likely to exhibit destructive behavior patterns and start plucking or mutilating their feathers, or aggressively pecking their flock mates. Needless to say that these findings can be easily extrapolated to society at large. The two reference groups represent only a small part of a growing number of individuals who end up paying the high price of low cost.
Luckily for a few, the right packaging for their product can make the difference, and may also be helpful to hide the deficiencies of what they are trying to sell. Just as the poultry industry uses slogans and pictures that idealize the countryside in order to prevent consumers from discovering inconvenient facts, the inflated global art market might elevate anything that sells into the realm of art. Far too often, the “value” of contemporary art is determined by the artist’s ability to market his or her brand rather than the quality of the artwork itself.
Determined to equal the annual egg production of an industrial laying hen, I set out to produce an egg almost every day throughout 2016: Painstakingly cut and assembled by hand, each egg took me about three hours to craft, making it as individual and unique as a bird’s egg. By subjecting myself to the repetitive and exhausting task of cutting and gluing a total of 8400 card circles over a one-year period, I wanted to synthesise the absurd existence of the oppressed and exploited individual and expose the perverse excesses of a profit-driven society.
Packed in leftover egg boxes collected mainly with the help of my family and friends, the packaging becomes the only distinctive visual feature between seemingly identical products and also determines the price of the resulting artworks.
In the broader sense, the project scrutinises the prevailing mode of production that encourages uniformity and monoculture in order to maximize efficiency and profits, relentlessly pushes more and more individuals into precarious work, and, all too often, confuses quantity with quality, production with creation and price with value.