Michael Elmgreen (born 1961; Copenhagen, Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (born 1969; Trondheim, Norway) have worked together as an artist duo since 1995. They live and work in Berlin, Germany.
Solo Exhibitions / Projects (selected)
15th Istanbul Biennial (curators), Istanbul, Turkey (forthcoming)
“Die Zugezogenen” ("The Newcomers"), Museum Haus Lange, Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Germany
“The Others” (curators), König Galerie, Berlin, Germany
“Changing Subjects”, FLAG Art Foundation, New York, USA
“Elmgreen & Dragset present Galerie Perrotin at the Grand Palais”, Grand Palais, Paris, France
“Van Gogh’s Ear”, Public Art Fund, Rockefeller Center, New York, USA
“Powerless Structures”, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
“The Well Fair”, UCCA – Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
“Self-Portraits”, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, U.K.
“Stigma”, Galleria Massimo De Carlo, London, U.K.
“Lot”, Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid, Spain
“Aéroport Mille Plateaux”, Plateau, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
“Stigma”, Galleria Massimo De Carlo, Milan, Italy
"Past Tomorrow”, Galerie Perrotin, New York, USA
“Biography”, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark
“Editions and Ephemera: 1995-2014”, Studio Hugo Opdal, Flø, Norway
“Biography”, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway
“The Old World”, Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
“A Space Called Public”, Munich, Germany, curated by Elmgreen & Dragset
“Tomorrow”, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, U.K.
“Omnes Una Manet Nox”, Louis Vuitton Flagship Store, London, U.K.
“Harvest”, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, U.K.
“Han”, Kulturværftet, Helsingør, Denmark
“The Critic”, Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen, Denmark
“The Fourth Plinth 2012”, Trafalgar Square, London, U.K.
“Happy Days in the Art World”, The Royal Danish Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark / Bergen International Festival, Bergen, Norway
“Happy Days in the Art World”, Performa 11, New York University Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, New York, USA / Tramway, Glasgow, U.K.
“The One & The Many”, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands
“Amigos”, Galería Helga de Alvear, Madrid, Spain
“The Afterlife of the Mysterious Mr. B”, Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
“Elmgreen & Dragset”, Thorvaldsens Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark
“It’s Never Too Late to Say Sorry”, Sculpture International Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands
“Silent wishes and broken dreams”, Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich, Germany
“Celebrity – The One & The Many”, Museum für Neue Kunst am ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, Germany
“The Collectors” (curators), Danish and Nordic Pavilions, 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
“Drama Queens”, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
“Trying to Remember What We Once Wanted to Forget”, MUSAC – Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, León, Spain
“Too Late”, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, U.K.
“Drama Queens”, Old Vic Theatre, London, U.K.
“Home is the Place You Left”, Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Trondheim, Norway
“Gedenkort für die im Nazionalsozialismus verfolgten Homosexuellen”, Berlin, Germany
“This Is The First Day Of My Life”, Malmö Konsthall, Malmö, Sweden
“Ti sto pensando”, Villa Manin, Centre for Contemporary Art, Passariano di Codroipo, Italy
“A Change Of Mind”, Kunst am Bauzaun, Museion Bozen, Bolzano, Italy
“The Welfare Show”, Serpentine Gallery, London, U.K. / The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada
“Disgrace”, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, USA
“Would You Like Your Eggs A Little Different This Morning?”, Galleria Massimo De Carlo, Milan, Italy
“The Incidental Self”, Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
“Prada Marfa”, Art Production Fund / Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, Texas, USA
“End Station”, Bohen Foundation, New York, USA
“The Welfare Show”, Bergen Kunsthall, Bergen, Norway / BAWAG Foundation, Vienna, Austria
“Forgotten Baby”, Wrong Gallery, New York, USA
“Constructed Catastophes, Fig. 2”, CCA – Center for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu, Japan
“Short Cut”, Fondazione Trussardi, Milan, Italy
“Don’t Leave Me This Way”, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
“Spaced Out”, Portikus, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
“Paris Diaries”, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, France
“How Are You Today?”, Galleria Massimo De Carlo, Milan, Italy
“Powerless Structures, Fig. 229”, CGAC – Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain / Galeria Helga de Alvear, Madrid, Spain
“Museum”, Sala Montcada / Fundació La Caixa, Barcelona, Spain
“Taking Place”, Kunsthalle Zürich, Zürich, Germany
“Powerless Structures, Fig. 111”, Portikus, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
“A Room Defined by its Accessibility”, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark
“Zwischen anderen Ereignissen”, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
“Powerless Structures, Fig. 57-60”, The Project, New York, USA
“New Works”, Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen, Denmark
“Dug Down Gallery / Powerless Structures, Fig. 45”, Galleri i8, Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland
“To Ken Ishii...”, Galleri Struts, Oslo, Norway
“Powerless Structures”, Gallery Campbells Occasionally, Copenhagen, Denmark
“12 Hours of White Paint”, Galleri Tommy Lund, Odense, Denmark
Group Exhibitions / Projects (selected)
“Animality: Animals and Art”, Marian Goodman Gallery, London, UK
“Protest”, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, UK
“No Man is an Island – The Satanic Verses”, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark
“Staged! Spectacle and Role Playing in Contemporary Art”, Kunsthalle München, Munich, Germany
“Fetich: Begærets Objekter”, Holsterbro Kunstmuseum, Holstebro, Denmark
“Gartenschau”, König Galerie, Berlin, Germany
“ta.bu”, Maison Particulière Art Center, Brussels, Belgium
“Slip of the Tongue”, Punta Della Dogana, Venice, Italy
“Panorama”, High Line Art, New York, USA
“What We Call Love”, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
“Diamonds always come in small packages”, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland
“Homosexualität_en”, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany
“The City is the Star – Art at the Construction Site”, ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany
“Little is Left to Tell (Calvino after Calvino)”, Blueproject Foundation, Barcelona, Spain
“Poor Art – Rich Legacy. Arte Povera and Parallel Practices 1968–2015, Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo, Norway
“Infinite Experience”, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina
“Days push off into nights”, Spring Workshop, Hong Kong
“All the World’s a Stage. Works from the Goetz Collection”, Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid, Spain
“No Hablaremos de Picasso”, Palacio Municipal Kiosko Alfonso, A Coruña, Spain
“more Konzeption Conception now”, Museum Morsbroich, Germany
“Secret Passions”, Lille 3000, Lille, France
“Late Harvest”, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, Nevada, USA
“As I run and run, happiness comes closer”, La Collection de Laurent Dumas vue par Jérôme Sans, Paris, France
“KIK Three Dizzyland”, Kino International, Berlin, Germany
“Power Memory People – Memorials of Today”, KØS Museum of Art in Public Spaces, Køge,
“GOLD”, Bass Museum of Art, Miami, USA
“do it Moscow”, Independent Curators International, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia
“Man in the Mirror”, Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels, Belgium
“Archeological Festival_A Second-hand history and improbable obsessions”, Tartu Art Museum, Estonia
“Attention Economy”, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria
“Salon distingué - Hausrat in guter Gesellschaft”, Museum Langmatt Baden, Baden, Germany
“Do Not Disturb”, Gerhardsen Gerner Gallery, Oslo, Norway
“Côté Intérieur”, Kunstpavillon Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
“LOVE AIDS RIOT SEX II, Art Aids Activism from 1995 until today”, NBGK | Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, Germany
“Mom, am I barbarian?”, 13th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey
“auf Zeit”, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden Baden, Germany
“Out of the Blue”, Cortesi Contemporay, Lugano, Switzerland
“Wonderful – Humboldt, Krokodil & Polke, Die Olbricht Collection”, Me Collectors Room, Berlin, Germany
“Hospitality”, Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK
“Fremde überall – Zeitgenössische Kunst aus der Sammlung Pomeranz”, Jüdisches Museum Wien, Vienna, Austria
“Echigo Tsumari Triennial”, Tokamachi City and Tsunan Town, Japan
“Common Ground”, Public Art Fund, City Hall Park, New York, USA
“Status – 24 Contemporary Documents”, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Wintherthur, Zurich, Switzerland
“Treffpunkt : Berlin”, ARKEN – Museum of Modern Art, Ishøj, Denmark
“Struggles”, Maison Particulière, Brussels, Belgium
“Im Raum des Betrachters – Skulptur der Gegenwart”, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany
“Modern and Contemporary Sculpture at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum”, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington, D.C., USA
“You Are Not Alone”, BACC – Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, Bangkok, Thailand
“TRACK – A contemporary city conversation”, S.M.A.K., the Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent, Belgium
“Group Show”, Galerie Perrotin, Paris, France
“Migros meets Museion. 20th Century Remix”, Migrosmuseum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland
“You Are Not Alone”, MARCO – Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Vigo, Spain
“Now: Obras De La Colección Jumex”, Instituto Cultural Cabanas, Guadalajara, Mexico
“Monodrome”, 3rd Athens Biennial, Athens, Greece
“Open House”, 3rd Singapore Biennale, Singapore
“8 1/2”, Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Florence, Italy
“Untitled” (12th Istanbul Biennial), Istanbul, Turkey
“Odd Size”, Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen, Denmark
“Wax – Sensation in contemporary sculpture”, Kunstforeningen GL Strand, Copenhagen, Denmark
“Streetlife and Homestories”, Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany
“The Global Contemporary. Art Worlds After 1989”, ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany
“Portraits”, Gerhardsen Gerner, Berlin, Germany
“Private/Corporate VI”, Daimler Kunst Sammlung, Berlin, Germany
“The Last First Decade”, Ellipse Foundation, Cascais, Portugal
“You Are Not Alone”, Joan Miro Foundation, Barcelona, Spain
“Among Heroes. Pre-images in contemporary art”, Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Nürnberg, Germany
“Produced by Migros”, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany
“Zwei Sammler – Thomas Olbricht und Harald Falkenberg”, Halle für aktuelle Kunst, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
“4th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art”, TSUM & Artplay, Moscow, Russia
“Il Belpaese dell'arte, etch ed estetiche della Nazione / The wonderful Land of Art - The Ethics and Aesthetics of the Nation”, Nomos Edizioni, GAMeC – Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy
“Unter Helden – Vor-bilder in der Gegenwartskunst”, Kunsthalle Nürnberg im KunstKulturQuatier, Nürnberg, Germany
“Destello, Fundación/Colección Jumex”, Ecatepec, Estado de México
“Private/Corporate VI – The Juan & Patricia Vergez Collection, Buenos Aires, in dialogue with the Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart/Berlin”, Daimler Contemporary, Berlin, Germany
“New Décor”, Hayward Gallery, London, U.K.
“Sexuality and Transcendence”, PinchukArtCentre, Kiev, Ukraine
“Fourth Plinth Commission, Six new proposals”, The Foyer, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, U.K.
“Anabasis: Rituals of Homecoming”, Ludwik Grohman Villa and Book Art Museum, Łódź, Poland
“Seconde main”, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
“Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum”, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA
“Margins of Silence”, Helga de Alvear Collection, Centro de Artes Visuales Fundación Helga de Alvear, Cáceres, Spain
“Invisible Shadows – Images of Uncertainty”, MARTa Herford, Herford, Germany
“Exhibition, Exhibition”, Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Rivoli, Italy
“Let’s Dance”, Musée d'Art Contemporain du Val-De-Marne, Val-De-Marne, France
“Glimmer”, Fondatión/Colección Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico
“Power Games”, Ludwig Múzeum, Budapest, Hungary
“Shelf Live”, Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel
“The Philosophy of Money”, Lisbon City Museum, Lisbon, Portugal
“Coup de Ville”, WARP Contemporary Art Platform, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
“Where do we go from here? Selections from La Colección Jumex”, Bass Museum of Art, Miami, Florida, USA
10th Havana Biennial, Havana, Cuba
“The Making of Art”, Kunsthalle Schirn, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
“New Aquisitions”, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark
“The Porn Identity”, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria
“Scorpio’s Garden”, Temporäre Kunsthalle, Berlin, Germany
“Zeigen. Eine Audiotour durch Berlin von Karin Sander”, Temporäre Kunsthalle, Berlin, Germany
“Lost and Found: Queerying the Archive”, Kunsthallen Nikolaj, Copenhagen, Denmark
“SCAPE”, Christchurch Biennale of Art and Public Space, Christchurch, New Zealand
“U-Turn”, Quadrennial for Contemporary Art, Copenhagen, Denmark
“Art on Stage”, Theater Basel / Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland
“Time Crevasse”, 3rd Yokohama International Triennale of Contemporary Art, Yokohama, Japan
“All Inclusive”, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
“Ad Absurdum – Energien des Absurden von der Klassischen Moderne zur Gegenwart”, MARTa Herford, Herford, Germany
“An Unruly History of the Readymade”, Fundación/Colección Jumex, Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico
“The Sickness of the Hunting”, MAMAC Nice – Musée d'art moderne et d'art contemporain de Nice, Nice, France
“This Is Not a Void”, Galeria Luisa Strina, São Paulo, Brazil
“Walls in the Street”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Serbia
2nd Moscow biennale of contemporary art, Moscow, Russia
Skulptur Projekte Münster 07, Münster, Germany
“Gruppentherapie”, Museion, Bolzano, Italy
“Mapping the Self”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA
“Double Vision”, Deutsche Bank Gallery, New York, USA
“Cuestión Xeracional”, CGAC – Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
“Bodypoliticx”, Witte De With, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
“The Zabludowicz Collection: When We Build, Let Us Think That We Build Forever”, BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quays, Gateshead, U.K.
“Made in Germany”, Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany
“Rockers Island, Olbricht Collection”, Mueum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
“This Is Not For You”, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria
“Into Me / Out of Me”, Kunst-Werke, Berlin / MACRO – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome, Italy
“Cross-Border. Fotografie und Videokunst aus dem MUMOK Wien”, MUMOK – Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, Austria
“Pensa/Piensa/Think”, Centre d’Art Santa Mònica, Barcelona, Spain
“Into Me / Out of Me”, P.S. 1, New York, USA
“Surprise, Surprise”, ICA – The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, U.K.
“Faster! Bigger! Better!”, ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany
“Protections”, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz, Austria
“Fever Variations”, 5th Gwangju Biennale 2006, Gwangju, South Korea
“Why Pictures Now”, MUMOK – Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, Austria
“Kontracom 06”, Contemporary Festival, Salzburg, Austria
“Anstoss Berlin – Kunst Macht Welt”, Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, Germany
“Broken Surface”, Sabine Knust Matthias Kunz Editions, Munich, Germany
“Universal Experience”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA
“Monuments for the USA”, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, USA / White Columns, New York, USA
“Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht”, ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe, Germany
“EN/OF 001-030”, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Kleve, Germany
“Modus Operandi”, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria
“Artists’ Favourites”, ICA – The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, U.K.
“Die Zehn Gebote”, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden, Germany
“Works and Days”, Louisiana Museum for Moderne Kunst, Humlebaek, Denmark
“Reordering Reality”, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, USA
“Lofoten International Art Festival”, Lofoten, Norway
“Interventionen 36 und 37: Monica Bonvicini: Elmgreen & Dragset “, Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany
“Utopia Station”, 50th Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy
“Living Inside The Grid”, New Museum, New York, USA
“nation”, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
“Happiness”, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
“The Living Museum”, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
“Skulptur Biennale Münsterland”, Münster, Germany
“Spectacular”, Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany
“Outlook”, Kunstverein & Stiftung Springhornhof, Neuenkirchen, Germany
25th São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo, Brazil
“Pause”, 4th Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju, South Korea
“Preis der Nationalgalerie für junge Kunst”, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany
“Beyond Paradise”, National Art Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand
XXVII Bienal de Arte de Pontevedra, Pontevedra, Spain
Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France
“Shopping”, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. a. M., Germany
“4pokoje / 4rooms”, The Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Krakow, Poland
“Rent-a-bench”, Los Angeles, USA
“Strike”, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton, U.K.
“Sudden Glory: Sight Gags and Slapstick in Contemporary Art”, CCAC Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, USA
“Egofugal”, 7th International Istanbul Biennal, Istanbul, Turkey
“AUDIT”, Casino Luxembourg, Luxembourg
“Neue Welt”, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
“Hortus Conclusus”, Witte de With, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
“Inside Space”, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
“Sets: Performing Surfaces”, International Artists’ Studio Program in Sweden in Venice 2001, 49th Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy
“Borderline Syndrome”, Manifesta 3, Ljubljana, Slovenia
“What If...”, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
“Sporting. Life”, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
“Century of Innocence”, Rooseum, Malmö, Sweden
“Leaving The Island”, Pusan Contemporary Art Festival, Pusan, South Korea
“Echigo Tsumari Triennial”, Echigo Tsumari, Japan
“Waiting”, Mjellby Konstgårds Vänner, Halmstad, Sweden
“Signs of Life”, Melbourne Biennial, Melbourne, Australia
“Extinction des Feux”, Art & Public, Geneva, Switzerland
“Junge Szene”, Wiener Secession, Vienna, Austria
“Berlin/Berlin”, 1st Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Germany
“Pakkhus”, Momentum, Moss, Norway
“Nuit Blanche”, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
“Nordic Nomads”, White Columns, New York, USA
“Warming”, The Project, New York, USA
“Cool Places”, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania
“The Louisiana Exhibition”, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark
“6. Muestra de Performance Internacional”, Mexico City, Mexico
“Between You and Me”, Overgaden, Copenhagen, Denmark
Powerless Structures have, over the past few years, made Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset internationally acclaimed artists. Their works meet the categories of art, architecture and design. In installations and performances, this duo explores and redefines space and its numerous possibilities of definition and function. Their approach is based on Foucault's thesis, that it is the acceptance of certain behavioural patterns, within given structures, and not the structures, themselves, that restricts human action and activity. Elmgreen & Dragset transfer space to new contexts of description, purposefully modifying its functionality, and, therefore, facilitating the re-definition of the familiar. In 2003, the artists set up a Prada Store in the Texas desert, somewhere between Marfa and the hamlet of Valentine. Even though the shop displays the latest autumn collection of this international fashion trademark, the building had neither entrance nor exit, and slowly deteriorated. The Prada project is an example of the artists' works, which often allude to discussions about the White Cube. Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset follow a traditional trend in art, which discusses the premises and reception of art, challenges the site of contemporary art, and finally, in the late 1980s and '90s, led to the criticism of the institutions.
Maurizio Cattelan: Michael and Ingar, I can sense a certain reluctance about doin’ this interview together. Is it just due to being totally trashed after yesterday's party or is there more to it?
Michael Elmgreen: It’s just because we don’t think we have anything really clever to say. When we read other interviews, there are always parts that strike us, and we ask ourselves, ’Why don’t we just take this section since it’s so interesting? We certainly can’t do any better on our own.’ The idea then is to reorganize something already there, represent something that already exists. We’d be happy to do this now. We just have to think about which interviews we like and which ones we can use.
MC: I think I’m going to ignore that remark, guys. Does this mean that earlier published
interviews with you are borrowed from other sources, pilfered from other
artists? For instance, what about the interview conducted by Lars Bang
Larsen in which you discuss your lack of a formal art education? Does this mean that you never were doing interior decoration and theatre, respectively? I did think your chronology was a bit suspect. If we do decide to proceed with this strategy, I have to admit that I’ll be concerned. I’m liable for the truth of my statements as well as yours. I’m no longer just an irresponsible artist, he, he.
Ingar Dragset: But, you see,truth is not out there. It’s just the
moment that you claim something as your own. This is our truth; that is
yours. Besides, if we use other people’s material, you will still have the
opportunity to observe how we work, and we will have the opportunity to
learn more about other people.
MC: Are there other artists whose work intrigues you guys enough that you want to adopt it as your own?
ME: The problem with that question is that we don’t consider ourselves as artists. We fell into this by chance. Someone once told us that it was a very profitable profession, that you could travel and meet a lot of boys
without even working so hard. But this is all false. There’s far too much
work. We don’t really mind it, however. In fact, we can’t imagine any other option. There is, at least, a certain amount of respect. This is one
profession in which we can be a little bit stupid, and people will say, ‘Oh,
you are so stupid; thank you, thank you for being so stupid.’
MC: One of your most publicized works is your “Monument to Short Term Memory”? As far as I remember (which is not very far, I must admit), this was specifically made for the USA. Which reactions did you get on this work? What were your expectations?
ID: Generally we try not to expect anything. But we were expecting some people to get upset. First, because we’re European; second, because US Americans just hate to be criticized; and, last but not least, because they think it’s a stupid idea. People want artists to come up with brilliant ideas, and the work was not that brilliant, it was rather a copy of a multitude of already existing ideas and art works. It’s a monument to our own short term memory as well.
MC: James Joyce described history as a nightmare from which he was trying to awake. All your work seems like an effort to break away from the burden of history, a never-ending escape. Just to think of your participation in the 2001 Venice Biennale, organized by Francesco Bonami. Here you presented a live chimpanzee, teaching it how to spell the word U-T-O-P-I-A. I must say I felt both disturbed and flattered by this piece. I see a clear reference to my own use of animals in this piece, but the live element is a clear breakaway from a sculptural tradition that I myself draw from. The whole enterprise made me think of Harold Bloom’s book The Anxiety of Influence, in which he filters the literary canon through the Oedipus complex, claiming that each generation of authors must annihilate its fathers.
ME: Oh, that’s important. We have to kill the father – otherwise we have to lick his feet. But we and you are almost the same age, you know, it is just that we’ve had an even later start to our art carriers than you. We are the ultimate examples of this kind of “Should I write a book or should I go to the stage” generation. Completely lost, and completely privileged at the same time. Today things seem to be much harder; people have to make choices much earlier and art students are under hard pressure because art has become a real business. But at least they don’t have to worry about the “generation” thing any more; everyone young is old and everyone old is young at the same time. It’s all projected identities.
ID: It doesn’t mean the same today to be either artist, gay or middle class as it did 15 years ago.
In terms of identities everything seems much more instable. Don’t you agree?
MC: I can relate to that. Never worked with any fixed identity. And recently I have taken on new roles...as curator...and gallery owner.
ME: Yeah, and you posing in a drag like wig, too.
MC: You have pointed out a few times that you don’t like to repeat your
work. Each installation, object or action seems to have its own reason for existing. Even so, it is possible to trace certain motifs or strategies that recur throughout the work, such as the use and abuse of the white cube or your recourse to teasing the fashion label Prada. How do you decide when a work is complete, and that you don’t need to revisit it?
ME: Well, certain pieces simply can’t be repeated. Ideally, when we work on something new it should be an exciting process for us. It’s like with a new lover: the first time, it’s ok, the second time a little better. But after two months, it’s … Jesus! So the work is like this. We get struck by images.
It’s something that hits our imagination and the day after it’s still in our
imagination. It is keeping our imagination hooked. In the end, we can’t
reduce this image or forget it. So we start working. We begin by thinking of all the possibilities and then we try to clean the idea. We try to find a
synthesis of the idea. This is the most difficult thing. It happens though,
a few times at least, every ten years or so. It’s maybe a very old school
gay thing to work with “transformed” appropriation in that way.
A workin’ method which also applies to your own production, I think.
MC: Are you crazy. You can’t tell an Italian that his working method is gay!!
ME: Oh forgot that you Northern Italian guys are just eating ice cream after clubbing.
MC: Your work exists in the interstices between object and actions. It
enters the art institution only to disrupt it, but that is only when you are
not ignoring it entirely, working independently, inventing your own
structures. Do you have an antagonistic relationship to the museum or the gallery system, or are you lovingly pointing out their contradictions from within?
ID: How can we contest the system if we’re totally inside it? We want
benefits from this system. So it’s like spitting in the hand of someone who pays your salary. We’re not trying to be against institutions and museums.
Maybe we’re just saying that we are all corrupted in a way; life itself is
corrupted, and that’s the way we like it. In terms of the choice between
actions and objects, this isn’t such a relevant distinction anymore we
think. Our installations are often more performative than our performances.
Performances are being sold as objects and the immaterial has become more style than anti-establishment. Let’s just say we try to find a balance between objects and actions, otherwise we will lose our minds or kill ourselves or each other slowly.
MC: Two people, one artist, how have you managed it for 12 years?
ID: Because we never ask that question ourselves.
ME: And we never argue. We don't believe in discussing or planning our
ideas. How we are as people is how our works will be.
ID: We always believe in accidents, we never believe in what they call
searching, we always believe in a dream or something that you fall into it.
So one day we simply became this artist. duo, mostly because we were already boyfriends and we were too lazy to do an art career on our own
MC: Where do you pick up your references, I mean you imply - after all you live in the world like the rest of us - that you are absorbing what's going on in the world. Where do you get your raw material from?
ME: We don't... we don't feel that way that we're showing life or reflecting life in that way, we like to think that we're forming our tomorrows, that we're making works that don't exist in reality, that maybe tomorrow will be a little bit more like our works than it would otherwise. Our last show was entitled “This is The First Day of My Life“.
ID: We always say, that our subjects are somethin’ you can get within a
distance of 100 metres from our house. Personally I've always felt that i
constantly had to liberate myself of being a product of capitalism. Look at where we live; just around the corner, at Torstrasse: there are kids making their own t-shirt print stores, old Russian women selling three boxes canned cod liver and cheap Korn-schnapps side by side with fancy Swiss cafés, hip fashion brands and of lately Brad Pitt’s new Berlin den. There’s something wonderful about people making up their own reality about one street. Berlin is terribly ugly, but we love it here.
MC: Personally I’m glad that I’m not there any more – the city and the
people are sooo slow! But you guys are travelling all the time, I guess, so maybe it is nice with a bit of calm. What does a working day look like for you?
ID: It depends what we are doing. If we are in the conception phase, we have to be creative, so we have to be loose, we have to dream more. And then even when we do the design we have to be totally free, we always jump in and out of the studio, back into the street, walk up and down, come back in again, do another drawing, run out again... that's how we do it, like we always say we are doing it like being in a black bag. But then once the designs are done, the initial design, then we never change, and after that it's only making it.
MC: Do you only work on one piece at a time, or do you have a number on the go at the same time?
ID: We very easily get bored,exactly like yourself... by work, by people, by places, by each other,by this interview at this point, too. In this way we always need to work on different projects simultaneously. Forever changing the strategies.
MC: How large is your studio?
ME: We always used to say that size doesn’t matter, but with age you get more honest. We have an enormous studio, we have three studios in fact. We have a studio behind our house, a studio behind the house next door and a studio behind the house next door to the one next door.
MC: In fact, are you rich, you must be...
ME: Not by normal artistic standards I'm sure, no.
MC: Are there some of your works which have never sold?
ID: Oh yes, many, many...
MC: Yes, and...
ME: There are difficult works...
ID: A lot of difficult works.
MC: Will the art of Elmgreen & Dragset die when the first one of you dies?
ME: No I think if we fell under a bus today our work would live on for a
while but who cares.
MC: But will the artist Elmgreen & Dragset die when the first one of you
ID: We always cross the road together, so maybe we... we have to be careful.
MC: Ingar and Michael, thank you very much.
ME & ID: Thank you.
This interview was heavily supported by the Berlin night life entertainment
"This is the First Day of My Life"
The exhibition This is the First Day of My Life by Elmgreen & Dragset is a comprehensive presentation of the artists’ works from 1997-2007. Since 1995 the artists have collaborated on a wide range of performances, interventions and installations. Elmgreen & Dragset have consistently played with and against the exhibition space throughout the vast series of works entitled Powerless Structures. This series challenged architectural, sexual and social structures combined with a critique of institutional spaces. Changing and altering spatial conditions has taken place both within the urban landscape (e.g. Dug Down Gallery/Powerless Structures, Fig. 45 and Cruising Pavilion/Powerless Structures, Fig. 55) as well as within art institutional architecture (Powerless Structures, Fig. 11, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art), or in more radical performative actions, such as when the artists – over a period of 3 months – reconstructed the entire interior design of Kunsthalle Zürich.
The title of Elmgreen & Dragset’s exhibition This is the First Day of My Life seems to address the question: What now? What will I choose? How will I deal with this first day? We never choose our first day, our day of birth; somebody else makes that choice for us. From day one, various factors influence our behavioural patterns: Who we are, what we become.
Time to choose. Which door will you open? Upon entering Malmö Konsthall, the spectator is confronted with a long blank white wall and a series of anonymous-looking doors. Some of the doors are dysfunctional and can’t be opened; others will lead the viewer through a complex environment of secret rooms configured in a labyrinthine system. Here the audience will find several new productions together with some of Elmgreen & Dragset’s more well known works such as Just a Single Wrong Move (shown at Tate Modern, 2004) or Queer Bar (Powerless Structures, Fig. 121). In this version of the latter work, the audience is invited to perform the role as bartender in a gay bar for a short while.
During the years Elmgreen & Dragset have staged themselves, actors, workers or friends in different performative acts, which have dealt with duration, process and the viewers’ perception of space. These performances have created a sense of endlessness and voyeurism, whether the artists have been knitting, painting or building a structure or taking it apart. Throughout their 12 years of collaboration Elmgreen & Dragset have created works and exhibitions where the performers and the audience are set up in a who’s watching who situation, which at times has left the spectator puzzled, in between, questioning if the exhibition was about to begin or just about to finish.
It’s all about accepting that nothing is for granted, daring to be confused and being open to new experiences. The work The Incidental Self, Fig. 3 consists of 1000 framed diary-like photographs. They are arranged in groups on white shelves, which are hung along a 30-meter-long corridor. The installation gives a new and more intimate dimension to the exhibition and to Elmgreen & Dragset’s working method. Childhood images are mixed with private snapshots of nightclubs, gay bars, ex-lovers and cityscapes from Europe, Asia and the Americas. Get lost in the arcades of passion!
In the exhibition This is the First Day of My Life go-go dancers, prison inmates, the bourgeois upper-class and club goers live door by door and have just left home to start a new day. Where did they all go? The exhibition gives no answers, it only poses more questions about all the tomorrows to come…this is the first day of our lives.
With their project Drama Queens for skulptur projekte münster 07, Elmgreen & Dragset return to their roots – on stage and in the realm of performance. However Drama Queens is a play without any actors. Instead the audience will experience a 30 minutes long encounter between some of the sculptural master pieces of the twentieth-century. Drama Queens will premiere on Saturday, 16 June 2007 – the opening day of skulptur projekt münster 07 – in the Großes Haus of the Münster Municipal Theatre (Städtische Bühnen Münster).
Seven sculptures of different nationalities and periods of modern art history meet on stage and the drama unfolds. The sculptures observe each other and the audience. They come to life, they communicate, and they begin to move around – here in their new and strange setting, far away from the silent museum halls. As in previous works Elmgreen & Dragset use humour to deliver some complex subject matters. In Drama Queens the thoughtful and critical dialogues sometimes end up in a malicious verbal slugfest when the sculptures start to bitch each other. Different temperaments and personalities come to the surface as Barbara Hepworth’s organically formed Elegy III and Ulrich Rückriem’s massive Untitled meet up with Jeff Koons’ Rabbit. The sculptures exhibit self-assuredness, arrogance, envy and mood swings – until they are confronted with an entirely new situation after the brilliant entrance of a seventh representative of their kind. The playscript is by Tim Etchells, artistic director of the Sheffield-based theatre group Forced Entertainment.
In this work, Elmgreen & Dragset bring together two traditional but diverse art forms, namely the one of the theatre with its live performance and the one of the static sculpture. Both fields are old-fashioned media in the sense that they need the presence of an audience and they depend on a “here and now situation” - a real life experience. Two worlds brought artificially together. This kind of displacement is what triggers the drama and makes us see things from a new perspective – like a Prada shop suddenly appearing in the middle of a dessert. In Münster, the question of what happens when sculptures from different contexts and periods meet, gains new significance based on the history of the Skulptur Projekte. By commenting on their situation, the sculptures reveal the importance of existing works in the creative process and reflect on the current state of the art market and the art scene as a whole.
Following the premiere on 16 June 2007 at 5 p.m., there will be two additional shows at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.; a matinee performance will take place on Sunday, 17 June 2007 at 10 a.m. After this, a video of the play can be viewed at the LWL State Museum of Art and Cultural History for the duration of the exhibition. Tickets are free of charge, cannot be reserved in advance, and will be available at the Municipal Theatre starting one hour before the performance starts.