He has for example exhibited in the Mendel Museum of Genetics in the Czech Republic and made reference to the Austrian scientist Gregor Mendel’s discoveries in inheritances and plant hybridisation that prompted the foundation of the discipline of genetics. In this work he constructed a pattern with a taxidermic specimen that carries on to excess and thereby satirising Mendel’s Second Law. From a genetic point of view the transitions between species of animals are seen to be fluid. Thus the search for a super-species or for the proverbial ‘egg-laying, wool-bearing, milk-producing sow’ sees its ironic and absolutely useless counterpart in the artifical beings of Grünfeld.
The artist states, however, that he is not very interested in animals at all. He instead wants to question the status of sculptural objects in general. Hard cuts, an additive effect and aesthetic ruptures are what he is looking for, so his work won’t be considered simply as taxidermic craft but rather as an artful assemblage.
His hybrids should be read as three-dimensional collages. They strikingly illustrate Max Ernst’s definition of collage. Ernst sees collage as ‘systematic exploitation of an accidental or artifically provoked encounter of two or more alien realities on an obviously inapt plane and the spark of poetry that jumps across in the approach.’
Grünfeld himself calls his sculptures ‘naïve’ and ‘romantic’. And indeed they do appear more artifical and more aestheticised than taxidermies by other artists. He just tampers with but doesn’t really alter the anatomy of the animals, each of which is divided into two but kept mostly intact in each half. There is for example a squirrel with duck’s feet, a rabbit with wings, a sheep with an ostrich head, a platypus with the neck of a goose and a skunk with a fan of tail feathers. Grünfeld is looking for species that have very little in common and avoids less spectacular, existing hybrids like, say, ligers or zorses.
He emphasises that his animal hybrids represent a possible and thinkable alternative to God’s creation and that they are not horrible fantasies. He dislikes any reading of his art as commentary on the dangers of genetic technology – even though as I said they are quite regulary exhibited in this context. Genetic technology in his view does not produce ‘visual design’ like an artist. And indeed one is not usually able to tell by the exterior appearance of a genetically manipulated animal that it has been altered at all. Also such animals are almost never ‘originals’ in the sense of a unique item but are instead manufactured to obtain a potentially unlimited amount of identical clones.
Jean Baudrillard has stated that such hybrids produce a ‘biological monotony’ – a description that hardly fits Grünfeld’s series of taxidermy specimens .
Nevertheless I would like to argue that the visible ruptures in the sculptures bear implications of the wound and therefore manifest a metaphorical disruption through the alleged distinct identity of the objects. I think that artists who use animal bodies for their artworks always address questions that go far beyond the classical concerns of sculpture such as the organisation of volume, measurement and dimension. Even though you can read Grünfeld’s objects as autonomous sculptures and judge his mastery of sculptural means, the material in combination with the topic and the form of hybridity brings into play bodily and spiritual suffering.
So Grünfelds objects point not only to sheer sculptural problems but also to the fragileness of our perception of the world.