Humorous, direct, interactive - and more: Until May 29, the SCHIRN is showing "A CAT IS NOT A DOG," a site-specific installation by Monster Chetwynd in its public rotunda. It's worth a visit for these five reasons.
1. The art of Monster Chetwynd interacts directly with the public
Chetwynd achieved fame with her exuberant and humorous performances using handmade costumes, props, and settings. Her performances are often improvised and are realized together with amateur actors and friends. In the rotunda of the SCHIRN, Chetwynd now integrates the audience in a similar way: By letting the visitors enter the rotunda through the oversized mouths of her "Heads", they become a direct part of the art.
Dr. Sebastian Baden, director of the SCHIRN, stresses:
With her installation, Chetwynd directly involves the public […]. Her art is direct, and can also be understood in this respect both as an invitation and as a democratic statement.
2. cats, pop culture and iconic moments of art
Monster Chetwynd’s performance and installation art is based on a multitude of influences from film and television, literature, antiquity, art history and philosophy, and even musicals. The artist combines elements of pop and high culture in a casual manner. Thus, the title of the SCHIRN exhibition “A CAT IS NOT A DOG” is a play onluk the popular musical Cats, but also on the eponymous film and on its critique, such as the humorous documentary "Why Is Cats". The three monumental sculptures placed in the Rotunda take up the motif of the Gateway to Hell, among other things. As a passageway or entrance, this motif was also appropriated in Sacro Bosco near Bomarzo, an Italian sculpture garden from the sixteenth century, or in the artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden in Tuscany, as well as in today’s amusement parks.
3. sustainability is essential for Chetwynd
The three monumental sculptures Chetwynd presents in the Rotunda are in a sense recycled: as the dates of the works "Il Tetto" (2017), "Hell Mouth 3" (2019), and "Cat Head and Toxic Garden" (2022) already indicate, the artist makes existing sculptures tangible in a new, location-specific form. For Chetwynd, the changes which leave their mark on the materials during the process of dismantling and rebuilding form an essential component of the work. In this way, the artist criticizes consumer society, contradicts traditional ideas that art objects are, by definition, unique creations and instead gives her works the opportunity to continue to develop their form.
4. humor as a means for social change
Typical of Chetwynd's art - for which she was the first performance artist ever nominated for the Turner Prize in 2012 - is the element of humor. Her performances have been described as exuberant, absurd, fun-loving. She herself once cited Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ecstasy, as her role model. This principle makes Chetwynd's art approachable, places it in the midst of the lives of people who stumble across it, and makes them think by subversively combining the familiar with irritating elements.
Katharina Dohm, curator of the exhibition, says of the artist: “Monster Chetwynd breaks with the traditions and conventions of the art world in a highly original and humorous way. With the repeated changes to her artist name, she questions gender and the relevance of authorship and signature. […] In a relaxed manner, Chetwynd undermines concepts of value and consistency and lets the public perceive familiar objects in a subversive and alternative light.”
5. the public rotunda becomes a magical parallel world
The Rotunda belongs to the SCHIRN and is also a publicly accessible passage between the Römer and the Frankfurt cathedral. Many visitors pass this way. In this manner, the architecture is both an entrance gate and a passageway. With her installation in the Rotunda of the SCHIRN, the artist is reacting directly and playfully to the conditions of the freely accessible location. She is positioning three of her monstrous Heads in the Rotunda and having visitors enter the roofed-in space through their open mouths. Just as the Rotunda exists as an exterior and exhibition space, the mouth, as an organ of perception, speech, and metabolism, also marks a transition zone between inside and outside, man and the world. In passing through the mouths, one ultimately leaves the real world behind and enters an artificial, stage-like, and perhaps even magical space in which the rules of everyday life no longer apply.