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.
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.
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.
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.