Generally, when we think of wishbones, we think of the prospect of good fortune. Wishbones symbolize an indicator of good luck. The popular custom of two people playing a gentle tug of war to break a wishbone ends in one person holding the larger piece, granting them a wish. It’s a quick and jovial game that somehow makes us forget that we’re playing superstitiously with the bones of a bird. Similar to that effect, artist Kate MccGwire’s piece titled Brood presents a pristine white spiral of approximately 23,000 chicken wishbones – the large-scale mural reads like a dream upon first glance but ultimately represents a winding grave.
MccGwire’s installation offers a wall of uniformly aligned wishbones, each one representing a dead soul. In the work’s statement, it reads: “For ‘Brood’, MccGwire selected only the remains of battery-farmed chickens, the unnatural GM uniformity of the bones is shocking: transferring the ancient practices of witchcraft to a much more contemporary and scary one.” There is a further connection drawn to humankind in this piece, as it is meant to represent lost life, in general: “En masse the bones recall a cull, a killing field, the horrors of genocide and slaughter of innocents.”