All the artists I have discussed not only challenge the relations of humans and animals but also the function of sculpture and the classical conceptions of the overcoming of material or destruction of material that are sometimes used to measure the quality of an artwork. They all make use of different modes of preparation and sculptural strategies.
There are many possibilities to point out similarities or differences regarding the four artists: Sengl and Grünfeld combine exactly two different species in order to form one hybrid creature. The relationship is the predator-prey-contact in the case of Sengl’s work, Grünfeld rather searches for the most surreal-looking combination. Schieferstein and Moessinger both graft more than two species together, while Schieferstein underlines this plurality and Moessinger hides it. Grünfeld and Schieferstein seem to be interested more in sculptural procedures, art historical traditions, aesthetics and formal questions whereas Moessinger and Sengl emphasise more the social meaning of their artworks; Moessinger with a focus on animals and Sengl on humans. Schieferstein and Moessinger work themselves with the organic matter, sew skins together etc. (Schieferstein even does all the dissecting and taxidermic preparation herself), whereas Sengl and Grünfeld commission the objects according to their concepts and blueprints.
What is remarkable is that animals’ dead bodies find an entrance into high art and thereby – even if it is in afterlife – maintain their ground in a way that is no longer simply virtual but very tangible. What is even more important is that all the presented artworks quite forcefully bring to light the scale of human projection onto animals.
Although one scarcely perceives the objects as lifeless flesh, they still of course embody the materiality of death through the fact of their being corpse material, a fact that carries a taboo. Therefore the reaction to their eccentric formal experiments oscillates as a matter of course between attraction and repugnance, between stirred empathy and shuddering rejection. In particular, the splitting up and preservation of cadavers in the context of an artwork is often felt to be shocking, in disregard of the fact that day after day living and sensitive animals are treated purely as commodities, for example in the meat industry. Today’s sculptors make sure not to depict the beauty of animals or to present animal imagery in a naturalistic manner probably because they do not want to be considered sentimental, decorative, naive, kitschy or anthropomorphising. Judgements like these would exclude them from serious art. A use of tabooed cadaver material that is too literal or too destructive on the other hand could lead to the critique of being sensational, gimmicky, disrespectful or irresponsible. At this point aesthetic and ethical values are mixed up in the reception of artworks.