Exhibition Project
Becoming Animal, Becoming Human
Animal Perspectives
Angela Köntje and Peter Frey

The installation by Berlin artists Angela Köntje and Peter Frey grew out of their cycle of works, “Homes for Neustadt-Neuschönefeld [a district of Leipzig],” begun in 2004. The title, which affects a gesture toward a documentary style, plays on the familiar, quasi-journalistic photo-text work “Homes for America,” by American artist Dan Graham. In contrast to Graham’s conceptualistic newspaper articles from the 1960s, Köntje and Frey’s artistic architectural-sociological analysis does not focus on prefabricated suburban middle class American housing; instead they present small, model-like buildings which serve as feeding places for stray cats in this Leipzig neighborhood.

The framed pages on the wall, containing photographs and details about the size, material, typology and surroundings of the model architectures, represent a selection from an archive comprising about thirty such “cat houses.” They document what is to a certain extent reproduced in the installation on view: this situation, arranged out of soil, carpet, cardboard and other second-hand, every-day things forms the material basis of a model building and is marked a “standort” [location, habitat], as cataloged a dozen times in the archive. A video monitor beams black and white pictures of other “architectures,” thereby emphasizing the architectonic-sociological focus generally characterizing the two artists’ joint projects. They frequently thematize, here, processes of appropriation and the use/adaptation of public living spaces. That the subject in this case is not human but animal dwellings probably only becomes noticeable upon second glance: The pseudo-scientific seriousness of the archive pages, the narrow-frame of the photographs and, not least, the form of some of the houses might, if glanced at only fleetingly, awaken the expectation that the objects on view are makeshift housing for homeless people.

Residents of Neustadt-Neuschönefelds constructed the cat houses on vacant parcels of land. As settlements occupying proverbial no-man’s-land, they also serve as gestures of appropriation of public space in which the stray cats serve as projection surfaces for human notions of household safety as well as representatives of a human battle for survival in an unregulated space.

Kassandra Nakas

M16 / Cat. 3: Camp, from the work cycle “Homes for Neustadt-Neuschönefeld,” 2009

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