Of Mice and Art
Dominic van den Boogerd
Dominic van den Boogerd
According to hard core conceptual artists, the work of art does not need to be produced by the artist. Andreas Arndt took this to heart. When he moved into his new studio at De Ateliers, an artists’ residency program in Amsterdam, he left the work up to other inhabitants of the building. Unsolicited, but very present company. The lady in the office hates them, because they scare her when roaming the paper waste basket. The tutors in the guest room are annoyed with them, as their nightly scribbling disturbs much needed rest. But Andreas Arndt recognized their relentless energy, their laborious skills, their full artistic potential. So he put them to work.
In the international residency program, the artist felt a bit small. In his enormous studio, over five meters high, the artist felt a little lost. In order to conquer his new environment, to make it his own, he decided to reconstruct the studio in a wooden scale model. One night he completed the model. He was not alone.
Was there food in Arndt’s studio? Yes, there was. A snack typical for Sweden, where the artist grew up: knäckebröd. And Arndt’s cohabitants knew where to find it. Primarily nocturnal animals, they compensate for their poor eyesight with a keen sense of smell to locate food.
Creation is destruction, Picasso once said. You don’t have to tell that to a mouse. The mice ate large parts of the round flatbread. Sometimes they ate their way towards the centre (where there is a hole), sometimes they nibbled along the circumference. Whatever their gastronomical strategy, they managed to create new and unexpected shapes, transforming dull rye crackers into enigmatic lunar landscapes or planets with unknown continents.
There is some evidence that indicates that the architectural design of mice burrows built in the wild is a result of what is pre-written in a mouse’s DNA. Is their also a genome that determines how a mouse nibbles crispy bread? A large series of half devoured knäckebröd is hung on the wall. Studying their circular, semi circular or formerly circular forms raises questions about alleged artistic intentions amongst the smallest users of the studio.
Along with rats, mice are the most commonly used animals in biological and psychological laboratory test. That’s because these small mammals share a high degree of homology with humans. Mice are also inexpensive, easily maintained, and reproduce quickly. Is it possible that mice at De Ateliers over several generations attained some artistic skills? Do the cartographies in crisp bread urge a revision of the history of art? Should we now include the majestic mounds build by termites, the blissful mating nests constructed by bower birds? How far does the expanded field of sculpture reach?
It is tempting to recognize in the half eaten crackers a notion of infinite space, as embodied in the works of Lucio Fontana. It feels sensible to compare Andreas Arndt’s collaboration with his hairy tenants to Pierre Huyghe’s staging of a hermit crab squatting a Brancusi sculpture. Arndt’s model studio is like Huyghe’s aquarium, an autonomous zone for reflections upon the nature of art.
Andreas Arndt’s ‘Mouse studio Amsterdam’ stems from a post studio praxis that is temporarily relocated to the studio. It originated from the darkest corners of the room, in the darkest hours of the night. It is about feeling small and doing great. It’s about being lost and using chance. It’s the Swedish cook’s worst nightmare that makes great entertainment. Come to the studio that Andreas built and meet the long tailed masters of the arts.