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Andrea Zittel

A to Z Breeding Unit: For Averaging Eight Breeds

1993

Andrea Zittel’s A to Z Breeding Unit: For Averaging Eight Breeds uses animal breeding as a way to explore issues related to power, social structures, and aesthetics. Whereas breeding is often employed for commercial purposes, either to enhance appearance or to ensure quality in terms of food or labor, Zittel’s work proposes the use of breeding techniques to create a completely “average” chicken. The work comprises chicken coops stacked to resemble an upside-down pyramid, with eight cages at the top, each containing a different, highly specialized “fancy” breed. Each successive level contains half the number of cages, which house the offspring of the chickens above. At the bottom, the resulting average chicken, stripped of its carefully cultivated recessive genes, is caged.

Andrea Zittel (b. 1965, Escondido, California; lives and works in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California)
A to Z Breeding Unit: For Averaging Eight Breeds, 1993
Steel, wool, glass, and electronics
72 x 171 x 18 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Gift of Donatella and Jay Chiat

In the post-industrial society, there is a breakdown of class structure. The elite transferred their desire for exclusivity to their desire for purebred pets. Pure lines are the same things that define royalty in people. Establishing a definition of purity reveals a longing to identify with an ideal. The new breed will be my creation. When my perfect bantam chicken is produced and it reproduces, my art will be available in an unlimited edition. —Andrea Zittel

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