Week 4 Case Study: The Nightmare or the Future

thomas grunfeld misfit(94)Thomas Grünfeld’s Misfits is a collection of hybrid taxidermy animal. Each piece is a collage that melts two different animals together, one being the head and on being the body. This solo project started from Grünfeld’s reflection on “the anti-aestheticism of the 80’s and an ironic critique of ‘Gemütlichkeit’ (a typically german kind of coziness), that produced the tradition of the hunt trophies as well of the 18th century ‘cabinets d’amateurs’. The one that is referenced by the link on our website is the St.Bernard/Sheep, comprised of the head of a sheep and the body of a shepherd dog. Made from the real animals, the two parts have been carefully sewn together, creating the perception of natural rendering rather than artificial interference.

When Misfits traveled to different galleries in the glass cases, it invoked a lot of questioning.

First, just the surrealistic imagery of these strange but realistic animals were shocking enough. For some viewers, they could even be horrifying and hard to see. We can see in Misfits a trending of contemporary art. Artists are no longer confined to present works that are visually comfortable for the viewers. Instead, they start to bring the ugliness of our nature to the surface, put them on the display, and force the viewers to swallow them. This type of manifestation is straightforward and unflattering.

On the other hand, the implication of Misfits is also ironic and controversial. Besides constructing the compellent look, it also established a radical challenge to the creation. While the use of real animal specimens holds a layer of reality, the odd combination clearly conveys a strong sense of fantasy. In other words, this is a collision of “familiar appearance” and the “unsuitability to our lived experience”. However, the zero boundary between natural and unnatural is set up artificially. In the age of rapid technology expansion, it’s not improbable that these strange animals might really exist in the near future. Then why are we still scared? Are we scared of just the look of them or the underlying crisis that might erupt one day from sticking our noses into the natural order? The conclusion is that even if these animals could be made possible, we still would not want them to be. However, looking at the experimentations nowadays, when the scientists are manipulating the genes and growing human organs on the mice, we are indeed unknowingly moving towards the kind of future we don’t want. Till them, will we reset our standard and regard any artifice as natural? Will the human offsprings even know how the animals really look in the “ancient” times?

At last, going back to the essence of this conversation, what would the viewers think if the manipulation has been done on the human instead of the animals? The shock perhaps would be even more intense. But this is exactly what we are doing to ourselves when we eat the protein powders to build the muscles, receive plastic surgery to improve our looks, and maybe in the future perform a gene modification to have six fingers. 

— Xi Wang


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