Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Jeffrey Vallance - Blinky the Friendly Hen

Blinky's Coffin (detail), 1989, coffin with plastic chicken replica and paper towel

Jeffrey Karl Reese Vallance (born 25 January 1955 in Redondo Beach, California) is a contemporary artist who lives and works in Los Angeles, California.

Best known for projects that blur the lines between object-making, installation, performance, curation and anthropological study, Vallance’s work has long challenged critics to define the artist’s unique multidisciplinary cross-pollination.

in 1983, Vallance appeared on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman to discuss what was then his best-known project, Blinky the Friendly Hen, in which he purchased a frozen chicken from a grocery store and buried it at a Los Angeles pet cemetery.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Vallance

You can describe the prank in one sentence. On 27 April 1978, Jeffrey Vallance persuaded a Los Angeles pet cemetery to bury a supermarket frozen chicken in a satin-lined coffin, claiming it was his pet, Blinky. Not a bad joke after all, but for Jeffrey Vallance that became a cornerstone for its carrier and general popularity. Yes, indeed, Vallance is probably still most famous for “Blinky the Friendly Hen,” a 1978 conceptual art-school prank in which the artist purchased a Foster Farms fryer from Ralphs and gave it a proper funeral and burial at the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery in Calabasas. This elegant recontextualization spawned a torrent of work - a highly sought-after artists’ book, innumerable drawings, appearances on David Letterman, further performances (the exhumation and autopsy of Blinky’s remains), a video collaboration with the Yonemoto brothers, etc. - that remains unabated to this day. Several of the reliquaries house bone fragments and other artifacts from the Blinky saga, and one of the seminal precursors of this work was the “Shroud of Blinky” - the bloodstained absorbent paper toweling from the original supermarket packaging that sold to a collector for $1,000.
Michael Pekker
http://best-hoaxes.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/blinky-friendly-hen.html

Jeffrey Vallance on Blinky, The Friendly Hen from MOCA on Vimeo.

WHAT'S THE STRANGEST REACTION TO BLINKY THAT YOU'VE EVER SEEN OR HEARD OF?

Several people have told me that they stopped eating chicken. Which makes sense because I was a vegetarian when I performed the piece 30 years ago. I didn't eat meat for health reasons and because I was against the inhumane treatment of animals. Similar to the Unknown Soldier, Blinky represents all chickens that have been slaughtered for the dinner table.

SO BLINKY THE FAMOUS HEN WASN'T CONCEIVED AS A PRANK, BUT A SERIOUS STATEMENT?

 There was a prankishness about it, but I never called it a prank. It was a conceptual art piece. But its meaning has changed over the years, at least for me. After the exhumation I began to see parallels in martyr stories in terms of the stages of torture, death, burial, exhumation, becoming a relic and finally a myth. And since then I've come to understand how such stories exist in our subconscious, and how every culture finds its own images to tell what is essentially the same story. Like the scriptures say, "The word of God is written on our hearts."

HOW HAS THE CEMETERY REACTED TO ALL THIS?

They were mad at me for a long time because people would show up and do all these bizarre things, like rituals, noisy spontaneous performances or eating KFC and leaving the leftovers behind. People also leave strange offerings on the grave, like votive items or fetish objects. And for some reason they thought I was behind all of it, which I wasn't. But then my mother found an article about the cemetery and the interviewer asked about Blinky, and the owner basically told the story but then added their own embellishments. . . . So they've added their own spin to it, which I like. I include all these embellishments in the Blinky lore.

CAN WE EXPECT ANOTHER PARTY WHEN BLINKY HITS 40?

For the 40th anniversary celebration, I'm thinking of constructing a colossal marble mausoleum for Blinky in Athens or possibly an underground sepulcher in Paris -- that is, if I don't get the bird flu.
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/mar/06/entertainment/gd-artq-a6

Jeffrey Vallance is many things. He is a prankster. He is someone examining cultural anthropology in relation what lies deep within the kitsch and symbolism of everything from ties and gum to cultural icons and mythologies. He is a writer looking seriously into collisions and resonances between the high and low. He is also an artist. His wide range of artistic work has been guided simply by deep intellectual curiosity and a playful sense of aesthetics and semiotics.

Blinky has become an icon. The friendly hen began as a mere video of a prank that played with the notion of pet cemeteries, but it also touched on our sense of death and mortality... as well as processed foods and commerce. It has inspired many artists and has had quite a life of its own. This is the world and work of Jeffrey Vallance. He can see a piece of gum that looks a bit like Richard Nixon and spin a deep semiotic examination of archetype, form and the cult of personality. He can take his experiences as a teen in the sometimes maligned San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles and develop an in depth understanding of mythology. He sent neckties, as a prank, to the leaders of many nations, asking for an exchange, and we laughed - but he had also, again, created a serious exploration of mythology, symbolism and cultural exchange. He works in many mediums, but always with a blend of play and serious examination. As well as showing in many museums, he has been conferred with the royal title of Honorary Noble by the Tongan National Center and has curated a show at the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas.
Jeremy Hight
http://whitehotmagazine.com/articles/2011-interview-with-jeffrey-vallance/2226


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