Squirrel Suicide by Maurizio Cattelan


In this blog I usually review an artist’s body of work rather than a single work. However, Maurizio Cattelan‘s squirrel installation shown above struck me as worth reviewing as a single work on its own.

The installation shown above is from 1996. It shows a squirrel slumped dead over a kitchen table in what is a bare and basic kitchen. A gun lies at the squirrel’s feet. What are we to make of this installation?

This kind of surreal tableau has a disturbing emotional impact; enough to keep me looking at it for a while. It also sends me on all sorts of thought processes. First it is just sad to see a dead animal – even sadder to think that he might have been specifically killed in order to create this artwork. Is being sacrificed for art the highest calling or the lowest one?

Then we have the incongruity of the animal in a humanized setting – and a very bare, stark, almost de-humanized, human setting. Does this speak to how we have domesticated everything around us – even supposedly ‘wild’ animals? Does it speak to how most animals these days can only live in what are essentially human-created – or at least human-managed – environments rather than ‘natural’ ones. Does the spartan austerity of this kitchen reflect the degraded, depressing environments that we have left for animals?

If we weren’t killing them all ourselves, would animals in a human constructed world actually prefer to kill themselves?

It is probably that Cattelan never intended any of these messages – but that’s neither here nor there. The title of the piece Bidibidobidiboo – the Fairy Godmother’s spell to transform Cinderella, does not give much of a clue to the artist’s intent. Others have questioned whether it’s a comment on social mobility. Who knows? We take from artworks that which we want. They are simply experiences that allow us to feel and think.

Cattelan has constructed other works featuring animals (below). Who knows what those could mean?


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