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More than a part of the sum 

Digital artwork 

Place of Origin




Inspiration and composition


Is the individual hen more than just a part of the flock? In Giersberg’s work on farm animal welfare, she is often confronted with seemingly undistinguishable animals, which are kept together in large groups for a relatively short lifespan. ‘When managing these animals, it is frequently referred to as ‘flock health’ and ‘flock welfare’. Strictly speaking, the concepts of health and welfare can only be attributed to individuals, not to herds or flocks. This philosophical concept about wording was the beginning of Giersberg exploration into different theories and ideas about ‘how we look at farm animals, how we treat them, and how we interact with them’. The portrait of a laying hen was taken on a digital camera Giersberg brings with her to commercial farms to document things she sees for future projects. ‘My students often think they (laying hens) look the same, however, if you look closely, you can see their individuality and differences’.  


The digital artwork was constructed by exploring different ways of layering and manipulating pixels, which is closely related to her second line of research into the development and application of sensor-based and PLF technologies. In this research, Giersberg

investigates whether and how these technologies can support the assessment of farm animal welfare. ‘The images captured by these sensor-based systems are a reduction of the represented animal, something which Giersberg wanted to capture in her own portrait of the hen. Using photoshop, Giersberg explored different pixel layer reductions to find the optimal point that allows the viewer to grasp the hen’s individuality and possibly gain new insights.  Inspired by Andy Warhol’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe, Giersberg replicated her reduction image and placed it into four panels. She then began exploring different colour arrangements, choosing a colour background with the hen in white as the best way to highlight the many different facets of the hen’s features. When she enlarged the photo, certain features disappeared so Giersberg coloured in by hand the missing details.  ‘I found the digital art method much less intimidating than painting and really enjoyed the process’, something which most likely relates to her desire for perfectionism with her art and her science. In answering whether sensor-based technology is helping understand the individual animal, Giersberg is still researching whether the positive claims that have been made are true.  


The artist

About Mona Giersberg

Mona Giersberg is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University, and her research is at the crossroads between Animal Welfare Science, Precision Livestock Farming, and Ethics. Giersberg has always been interested in art and even contemplated studying it at university. Portrait images are her main medium of expression which she both paints and now creates digitally. While veterinary studies seemed to be the safer option regarding her future career, Giersberg eventually ended up working at the interface between humanities and animal sciences.  

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