Friend, Foe, Mirror
16.07.2020 – 08.11.2020
Mice (and rats) have followed humans around the globe and have accompanied us for thousands of years- in the field, in the attic, in the mill, in the bakery, and in the house. Wherever grain is grown, processed, or consumed, these little creatures are there to share in it. This competition with humans for calories has at times led to violent conflict. Grain and bread were often scarce and essential for survival. But despite the many different attempts, it was never quite possible for mankind to completely rid itself of these pesky rodents.
A deep-seated fear of mice has entrenched itself in the collective psyche. Mysterious, often dark forces have been attributed to these small animals. At the same time, the image of mice as a symbol for the poor and downtrodden was also established early on.
It was not until the 19th century that mice began to be perceived as fellow creatures; this new attitude first found literary expression in Robert Burns' poem, "To a Mouse", which lamented the enmity between man and mouse.
As humans have grown further and further removed from nature and its creatures in the 20th and 21st centuries, man's dominance over the animal kingdom seems complete. Mice have become a type of livestock, raised as feed for other animals or used in the laboratory. Perhaps counterintuitively then, given the current world order, was a report in the 1980s that found that mice, and to a greater extent rats, were more likely than humans to survive a nuclear apocalypse. Günter Grass wrote a novel based on the subject entitled, The Rat.
The mouse as metaphor is more prevalent than ever. It comes to life in popular comics and cartoons, such as Disney's Mickey Mouse or Tom & Jerry. Funny and clever, the mouse rises to every challenge.
Art Spiegelman made use of various popular associations connected with mice in his graphic novel, Maus, in which he tells the story of his father, an Auschwitz survivor.
For some years now, the graffiti artists Blek Le Rat and Banksy have seen themselves as "big city rats".
There is probably no other animal that has been and continues to be ascribed so many and such different characteristics and that evokes so many disparate associations and emotions. This exhibition explores this paradox and examines the relationship between humans and mice, primarily through the prism of art.
The exhibiton includes works by well-known artists like Günter Grass, Felix Droese, Katharina Fritsch, Dieter Krieg, Walter Schels and Deborah Sengl.