Brilliant Ideas Episode #35:
Elmgreen & Dragset
Artist duo of creative inspiration and reversed images
Truthful point of view of the world
Elmgreen & Dragset has been creating artworks around the world for the last 20 years. From a sculpture of a luxury brand boutique installed in the middle of the desert in Texas, to an exhibition place transformed into an art fair, the duo has caught people’s eyes with unexpected and witty art pieces.
Aiming to see the world a little bit less logically and express subjects indirectly in this age where accuracy is a virtue, the artists send humorous yet truthful messages to people. Brilliant Ideas Episode #35 brought to you by Bloomberg and Hyundai Motor features Elmgreen & Dragset, the artist duo who show their attitude by expanding the reality rather than criticizing it.
Seeking change with art
In April last year, in front of the Rockefeller Center at the heart of New York, one of the busiest cities with a high population density, a huge sculpture of a swimming pool was installed. Titled <Van Gogh’s Ear>(2016), this artwork seems as if an actual swimming pool is set up, reminding us of a readymade art. The installation, however, had been elaborately designed and produced by Elmgreen & Dragset. Standing upright facing the sky, the sculpture looks similar to a human ear. The duo said they wanted to make an art piece from which people could feel comfort in the middle of the hectic city. The artwork made people escape from Manhattan for a while and think of joyful swimming under the hot sun in a secluded city, receiving an enthusiastic response from the New Yorkers.
The duo continuously experimented with new things and ways through art, because they believe that approaching people with the artworks outside the fixed ideas and frames can inspire the world, which can change and influence their artworks as well. Their first solo exhibition in Asia <The Well Fair>, which was recently held in Beijing 798 Art Zone, attracted great attention as expected. All of their works from all over the world were gathered in one place and the exhibition made the viewers stop for a moment. Unlike other exhibitions in which artworks are displayed in a quiet exhibition space, art collectors walked about and booklets were provided everywhere in the space as if the place was an art fair. The booklets and the art collectors in the exhibition were all a part of the exhibition. The duo planned the exhibition, hoping that the viewers could participate in the exhibition to have more fun. Through the exhibition reflected with the philosophical question of the artists about the meaning of an artistic place in the society, their collaboration works of the last 20 years were confirmed by the viewers and their brilliant wit also stood out.
Talking about being different rather than being wrong
Consisting of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, the artist duo was formed in 1995. Michael Elmgreen, a Dane, and lngar Dragset, a Norwegian did not start their relationship for creating art. After they became lovers, the artists realized their views on the world were similar and conducted various experiments together, forming a shared world of artworks. Though they broke up 10 years after becoming a duo and remained as friends, the artists have continued to create works together. They say that the change in their relationship vitalized their cooperative creation. <Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism>(2008) is a cuboid memorial installed in a park in Berlin. In the style of minimalism, the artwork pays a tribute to the persecuted homosexuals in the past and celebrates the modern society, where homosexuals are freed much more from the past suppression. Inside the cuboid, a video of two men kissing is repeatedly playing, aiming to provide a new perception about homosexuality to everyone passing the park. In fact, many young students and people from various cultural backgrounds including Middle Easterners, who tend to be strict about homosexuality, visited the memorial and showed positive responses, which indicates that the artwork of the duo is making a little change to the perception of homosexuals.
Arousing curiosity at a glance, their witty artworks always have a fierce meaning and impact. The Fourth Plinth placed in Trafalgar Square, London, is known for displaying commissioned contemporary artworks; from 2012 to 2013, <Powerless Structures, Fig. 101>(2012) by Elmgreen & Dragset was installed on the plinth. The sculpture of a child on a wooden horse among the sculptures of historical figures put a smile on people’s faces. Unlike other sculptures that commemorate historical events, the artwork was made to show respect toward the process of human being born and growing into an adult. Its adorable appearance contrasted with solemnity could be easily accepted by many people. The unexpected and a little playful installment sent a deep message that penetrates the essence of human life.
For the last 20 years, the artist duo have inspired countless people throughout the world. Though some may frown upon their unexpected artworks, what the artists are trying to talk about through the artworks are honest messages that enable people to be opened to viewing art. Their joyful world of art that breaks the frame of fixed ideas continues to expand. ■ with ARTINPOST
Marble, wood 156×70×70cm Courtesy: Galleria Massimo de Carlo Photo by Alessandro Zambianchi
<Modern Moses> 2006
Carrycot, bedding, wax figure, baby clothes, stainless steel cash machine ca. 71×37×16cm(baby carrycot); ca. 94×76cm(cash machine) Courtesy: the artists Photo by Anders Sune Berg
<Plus One> 2015
Teak door, metal handles and hinges Size: TBC Simulation: Studio Elmgreen&Dragset
<Emergency Exit> 2015
Aluminum, styrofoam, iron, concrete, neon sign Door: 220×180×8.5cm; stairs:355×677.5×120cm
Mixed media installation Dimensions variable Courtesy: Galeria Helga de Alvear Photo by Joaquin Cortes
<Tanya! Tanya! Tanya!> 2004
Wood, stenciled lettering, wax, human hair, clothing, shoes, styrofoam balls Life-size cast Courtesy: Olbricht Collection Photo by Oren Slor
Epoxy resin, white lacquer 30×59×42cm Courtesy: Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin Photo by Anders Sune Berg
<Prada Marfa> 2005
Adobe, plaster, paint, glass, panes, aluminum frames, MDF, carpet, Prada shoes and bags 760×470×480cm (Bloomberg capture still)
<Van Gogh's Ear> 2016
Steel, fibreglass, stainless steel and lights Approximate proportions: 899.16×500.38×241.3cm (Bloomberg capture still)
Installation view of <Powerless Structures, Fig. 101> at The Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, London 2012
(Bloomberg capture still)
Since 1995, artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset has been exploring the relationship among art, architecture and design. This duo observed of public eye through <Prada Marfa>(2005) which reproduced a Prada store in the middle of Texas. Mainly using sculpture and installation, they transform a familiar form to a characteristic shape and make the work to have humor and wit, but at the same time address a social and cultural problem.
Michael Elmgreen who was born in 1961 and Ingar Dragset, born in 1969 are both from Northern Europe and share another factor that they didn’t receive fine arts education. Now based in Berlin, Elmgreen & Dragset held several solo exhibitions at UCCA(Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, China), Galerie Perrotin, Victoria Miro, London and many others and participated in the ‘Venice Biennale’, ‘Singapore Biennale’ and the ‘Gwangju Biennale.’ For the ‘15th Istanbul Biennale’ in 2017, this duo is expected to take part in the as curator.