A site-specific installation by Monster Chetwynd (born 1973) will be on display in the public Rotunda of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt from March 3 until May 29, 2023.
The artist rose to prominence with her vibrant and funny performances, which featured handmade costumes, decorations, and sets. Her creations are frequently outrageous and full of joy; they reference pop culture or renowned works from art history.
The artist responds directly and humorously to the limitations of the openly accessible position in the Schirn Rotunda. Visitors are being let into the roofed-in chamber through the open mouths of three enormous Heads. Visiting the enormous sculptures Il Tetto (2017), Hell Mouth 3 (2019), and Cat Head and Toxic Garden (2022) allows for a unique sense of space.
Dr. Sebastian Baden, director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, notes: “Monster Chetwynd is without doubt one of the most important performance and installation artists of our time. Her art invites interaction and makes use of humor as a means of social change. With her installation, Chetwynd directly involves the public by making them cross into the Schirn through the open mouths of her Heads. Her art is direct and can also be understood in this respect both as an invitation and as a democratic statement.”
Chetwynd’s performance and installation art draws inspiration from a wide range of sources, including film and television, literature, archaeology, art history and philosophy, and even musicals. The artist casually mixes aspects of pop and high culture. Consequently, the title of the Schirn exhibition “A CAT IS NOT A DOG” is a play on the iconic musical Cats, as well as the eponymous film and its critiques, such as the amusing documentary Why Is Cats. With the three Heads Chetwynd is referencing at the same time to a motif of the Christian artistic tradition: the “Hellmouth” or Gateway to Hell. This pattern was also adopted as a doorway or entry in Sacro Bosco near Bomarzo, an Italian sculpture garden from the sixteenth century, or in Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden in Tuscany, as well as in today’s amusement parks.
Chetwynd’s artistic practice is dependent on sustainability and involvement; with the Schirn, the artist renders old sculptures tangible in a new, site-specific form. The materials she uses and the methodical style of her work can also be interpreted as a critical remark on consumer society. For Chetwynd, the changes that occur on the materials during the dismantling and rebuilding process are also an important part of the work. This method runs against to the belief that art items are, by definition, one-of-a-kind creations. Chetwynd’s numerous name changes—from Spartacus Chetwynd to Marvin Gaye, and finally to Monster Chetwynd—reflect a strategy of subverting art’s conventional rules.
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. Her art unites elements of popular culture with iconic moments of cultural history in an effortless and approachable way, focusing on questions of sustainability through the reuse of existing materials. In a relaxed manner, Chetwynd undermines concepts of value and consistency and lets the public perceive familiar objects in a subversive and alternative light.”