A few clicks here and a few clicks there and a zoo map opened up to us.
Lo and behold! Before we can even get around to buying tickets to our imaginary zoo, we are confronted by a rather open-hearted, larger-than-life monkey, proudly stretching out his private parts toward us in front of the entrance gates.
bronze / blue patina. 2,25 x 5,04 x 2,10 m
After weeks of dealing with women in art, we wonder if this greeting is a gentle reminder not to lose sight of men and other genders. Probably a matter of decency. With a little *plop* a plan of the zoo opens and Martina reads aloud what is written about the blue ape:
"Denis Defrancesco's provocative work King Kong Balls was and is a great success – although, or perhaps because, at first glance it can quickly be labelled as a provocative and superficial creature. Via presenting the sculpture in a public position so easily accessible to the public plus allowing it to be touched, to be climbed on and explored, the artist makes a statement of freedom.”
For a moment we simply watch people climbing around on the monkey, taking photos and sometimes more, sometimes less embarrassed touching his golden balls.
spruce wood, 94 x 134 cm
After this flagrant greeting we make our way to the entrance and then head straight to the petting zoo, hoping to meet not so obtrusive creatures there. And what a greeting. A cheerful goat jumps towards us. But instead of being pampered and cuddled by us, as a goat in a petting zoo should be, the cheeky thing actually sticks out his tongue! As if that wasn't enough, we discover that the animal must have stolen a utensil from the zoo keepers and used it to create an impressive new hairstyle. Outrageous!
Our next stop: the zebra enclosure. The striped companions loll about and relax in the June sun. This time it is Nina's task to recite loudly and with a touch of criminal drama from the zoo guide:
"For his application answering to a call for a public work of art for a prison Peer Oliver Nau intensively engaged himself with the topic of horses, which is an ever present theme throughout the history of sculpture. He then discovered the striped conspecifics which reminded him of the inmates: Zebras. His animals often have human traits, are..."
Suddenly, a wild boar comes out of nowhere, races between us, brushes against Martina’s legs, creepily grunts and dashes past us, leaving a cloud of dust behind him.
Totally perplexed Nina puts the zoo plan away. We had never imagined that this virtual zoo visit could be so exciting. Fortunately, the next stop on our program promises to be a little more relaxing.
While Nina and Martina grab some pieces of chalk to devote themselves to the meditative drawing of the next animal, I read, being fitting to the calm mood which surrounds me, somewhat monotonously and meditatively from the zoo guide what Bernhard Keller, the artist wrote about his Allesfliesstier:
"In the summer of 2016 I applied to the call for proposals for the curated project Bull Parade in Zug (Switzerland). The aim was to design a given fibreglass bull in a unique way. My idea was to paint the bull with blackboard paint so that many people could draw on the bull again and again with street crayons. My proposal was accepted and I was able to put my project into practice. My Allesfliesstier received its first temporary drawing in front of the Museum Burg in Zug during rainy weather in August 2017. Several drawing sessions followed in different Swiss cities and the bull family grew – two young animals were added.
Still totally engrossed in circles of chalk, Martina suddenly looks up, startled. The wild boar is standing next to her again, taps her on the shoulder and hastens along the path – we follow it to a meadow where it stops next to a hare.
shoe last, h.ca. 1,5 m
In disbelief all three of us tilt our heads to one side in order to take a closer look at this special version of Master Hare. Sophie Marsham’s rabbit has an undeniable resemblance to his relative from Alice in Wonderland. But in contrast to his furry idol he has shoe lasts as ears and a tailor's dummy as his body. Dumbfounded we look at the now no longer running boar next to his newly found friend.
We leave the two friends behind us and leisurely make our way to our last port of call at the zoo: the monkey house.
Not quite as permissive as his colleague at the entrance, Jörg Engelhardt’s Kong welcomes us here and each of us read quietly in the zoo guide:
"During his guest studies in Berlin-Weissensee, Engelhardt spent almost every day at the zoo to draw. He was especially fascinated by the monkeys again and again. Later he also immersed himself in the theoretical world of zoology and even got the nickname “Monkey” from his friends. In 2016 the first three-dimensional monkey was created. Kong, the sixth in this series, is the artist's favourite. It is not for sale and is lovingly cared for and nurtured. To this day, monkeys are a theme in his art – fascinating creatures that stand almost identically to humans."
With philosophical thoughts about humans and apes we zoom back into reality.
Wow. What a comeback to office life. Max, who has just snowed into the office from Salzburg just at this moment, with the train running late, grabs the zoo guide, which is lying next to us on the desk, and starts reading the text about the theoretical background and the relationship between humans and animals, from zebra prints on T-shirts, goat cheese in the fridge through to Franz Marc's red deer and the rabbits of Dürer and Alice.
As Martina, Nina and I can’t help but to laugh out loud, Max looks up at us somewhat perplexed.
We've had enough of rabbits and monkeys for now – but we still celebrate the hope that we'll soon be allowed to visit real zoos and that the time of countless zoom-meetings can give way to zoo-meetings.
Concept and implementation: Martina Fischer, Nina Gramüller, Max Güntert und Elisabeth Pilhofer