High and Low

Mouse hole. The tiny upside-down parabola-shaped opening found indoors or out, at the base of a wall where it meets the floor or the ground. The same-shaped hatch, found over the past century in thousands of cartoons, has provided an escape for thousands of mice. How many times, as a kid, did I watch Tom chase Jerry back into his hole? (More times than I should have, had my mother known I was watching so much TV.)

So joyfully I’ve stumbled upon these two mouse holes pictured here that are both witty and surprising. But that’s where the similarity ends. There is a difference between the two holes rendered that’s not necessarily small. One might be considered high art, the other low. One has been found in fine art galleries and major museums, the other in the streets of a city.

Mousehole is a pristine ink-on-paper drawing that its creator, the Berlin-based British artist Ceal Floyer, carefully places on the floor, leaning it against a wall. Although there’s a momentary trick-of-the-eye, the eye is never tricked. That the hole is on a piece of paper is obvious. We’re told Floyer’s paper works are about gesture, about how her drawing changes the paper’s function. Floyer is known for her ‘elegant wit,’ for taking ready-made objects and turning them into three-dimensional ‘cerebral’ wordplays, challenging viewers to ‘renegotiate’ their perceptions of the everyday as well as the space that encircles them.

The Red Carpet-ed mouse hole, on the other hand, is a work without explanation. It’s the work of the once anonymous celebrated British street artist who goes by the pseudonym Bansky—whose true identity gave the Brits something to ponder over, for more than a decade it seems. From the moment he started, back in the 1990s, covering exteriors in London and Bristol surreptitiously with his spray-painted images, he set people on edge. He was criticized by the authorities for using his art to make anti-authoritarian statements, and to ‘vandalize’ buildings; and criticized by the artist community for using stencils; and eventually criticized for ‘establishing a brand,’ for becoming “a commercial success by condemning consumer culture.”[1] That being said at the heart of his work is what street art—before the boundaries of the graffiti sub-culture became blurred—is all about: That art can be made by anyone, that art is for everyone.

No matter the high-low discussion, there is one thing here that isn’t up for debate: Neither mouse hole can be used by a mouse.


[1] Alex Altman, “Bansky: An Artist Unmasked, Time, July 21, 2008.

Other sources: Lisson Gallery website; “Ceal Floyer, Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami,” ArtForum, Jan.-Feb. 2010; “Ceal Floyer: Works on Paper,” Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, 2011; Duncan McLaren, “How I became a mouse for a moment and joined in an art work,” The Independent, March 4, 2001; Christopher Knight, “MOCA’s ‘Art in the Streets’ gets the big picture wrong,” The Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2011; “Bansky, Damien Hirst Works Draws High Prices in London, The Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2012.

(Mousehole, 1994, A4 paper size; images reproduced for non-commercial use only.)

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