In April 2023 our two pet chickens, Arabella and Bravery, were sadly killed by a fox. To mourn their loss, I did a small action with my artwork Encyclopaedia Ball, rolling it out to the site of their run.
Encyclopaedia Ball is a long-running project to convert a set of 1950s Encyclopaedia Britannicas into a solid papier mache ball, page by page, starting at ‘A’ and working through to ‘Z’. Occasionally, I do actions with the Ball, such as rolling it places to mark milestones in the project. This time, the Ball had reached the article on ‘head hunting’, which was grimly appropriate to contemporaneous events in the chicken coop (which left one chicken headless and the other still in possession of its head, but nevertheless dead). I glued two chicken feathers – evidence of the carnage that had taken place – onto the Ball, either side of the illustration of the famous Assyrian relief of Asshurbanipal’s victory over Elam and beheading of its king. After that I rolled the Ball out to the site of the former chicken run. (I’d already dismantled the fence of the run by this point – we’re not getting any more chickens!)
I left the Ball in the run for the rest of the day, until it would have been time to lock up the chickens for the night. It was poignant to catch sight of it during the rest of that day – I was pottering about and it kept catching my eye. Its whiteness made it stand out incongruously amidst the spring greenery of the garden, like a giant snowball. In the early evening it drizzled heavily. Later, when I rolled it back into the house, the Ball was damp and filthy with feathers, mud and chicken mess. RIP Arabella and Bravery.
See more about my project on the Encyclopaedia Ball website.