! Thomas Grunfeld's work features in `Young German Artists 2', at the Saatchi Gallery, NW8 (0171 624 8299), from Thursday to 23 November.Reuse content
Ever since the first funfair pulled into town, freak shows (featuring perhaps a duck with two heads or a cow with six legs) have been sure-fire crowd-pullers. The Victorians in particular took this perverse passion to their hearts, breeding chickens with head feathers that looked like fancy bonnets and stuffing nature's sadder oddities with straw. Even today we love our mutants: breeding bald kittens or dogs whose wrinkled flesh resembles deflated balloons. German artist Thomas Grunfeld revels in this fascination, using a black-arts take on taxidermy to create strange hybrids so perfect that they could be genetic quirks thrown up by nature itself. Pictured here is Misfit (St Bernhard), a sheep's head seamlessly attached to a dog's body. It seems like a smart idea (a sheep that can round itself up?), as well as a visual joke (a true sheep-dog), but there is something sinister about both this and Grunfeld's other "sculptures" that hints at his country's wartime fascination with genetics. Yet all of Grunfeld's Misfits - a deer with bat's wings, a pheasant with a fox's body - are also unsettlingly funny. And who knows, perhaps in some unexplored land they really exist.