Gerrit Frohne-Brinkmann Prop and Predator

Prop and Predator, an exhibition comprised of Gerrit Frohne-Brinkmann’s latest set of sculptures, presents an unlikely pairing. Animatronic cats rest upon ceramic snakes that are quite literally hanging out on poles spanning across the gallery. Driven by Frohne-Brinkmann’s typically precise treatment of space and materials, and by an equally precise deployment of the symbolic places his objects occupy, the show merges together some of the main themes the artist has explored throughout his career, ranging from representations of nature in media of consumerism and spectacle to the conditions of interpersonal connection in a late-stage capitalist world.

Generally speaking, cats and snakes don’t have much in common apart from their slit pupils. In the display at hand, their sculptural liaison doesn’t exactly emphasize their similarities, either. One is a child’s toy, mass-produced during the early 2000s, while the other was modeled from clay with the attention and care that befits a medium of artistic practice, according to the classical notion. The assemblage is still a far cry from a shotgun wedding, however. As idealistic as it may seem, cat and snake provide space for each other voluntarily, gently allowing for a mutual allocation of their respective roles as base and figure, again according to the classical notion. Something could be said about hierarchy, about the strength of bonds that are conventionally deemed unnatural, or about the subversion of dominance that true cohabitation necessitates.

Snakes and cats, on the other hand, are two unmistakably non-human critters that have long served as representations of otherness in human imaginaries. Maybe it’s the ways they move what got them into trouble, which human minds just can’t seem to grasp, and therefore had them banished from the village to the witch’s cottage. Then, in a particularly cruel turn of events, we invited them back into our homes as pets. Prop and Predator has its artificial snakes and cats perform an aleatoric sequence of movements and sounds. This technically outdated, dysfunctional composition recalls the magic forest as well as said cruelty – an ambivalence that disturbs the peace just enough to lose trust in its integrity. When we speak of emergent naturecultures, of companion-speciesism, of making kin in the anthropocene, we address a certain narcissism that Prop and Predator addresses as well: the narcissism that comes with applying neat, peace-keeping dualisms such as the natural vis-à-vis the artificial. For the time being, cohabitation remains patchwork.