I found the art of Elmgreen and Dragset so inspiring that I decided to write this post, so I had an excuse to display case for you.
The body of work that explores the link between art, design and architecture begins in 1995, when Michael Elmgreen (1961 Copenhagen) and Ingar Dragset (1969 Norway) started to work together as an artist duo. In 2006, they bought a large water-pumping station from 1924 (Berlin) and converted it into a studio. For the reason of their collaboration, they say it was fatal attraction. They met in a club in Copenhagen called After Dark…then they became lovers and collaborators.
Beginning their careers in poetry and theater before moving into visual art, they became best known for hyper real interventions that employ sculpture, performance and architecture; art work addressed to serious social and cultural concerns, their pieces are very communicative, always in a dialog with the audience, full of irony and dark humorous, anti-establishment projects. The mixing of fact and fiction, truth with imagination, repeats through their work and manifests their attempt to find meaning in nostalgia. They do not make art separately, but sometimes Michael designs industrial objects, and Ingar makes music, combining pop with folk and indie elements.
Obviously they do experience the world in very similar ways, possessing a skepticism towards conventions and power systems: “ …it is more a posteriori than a priori. Our feuds are more concentrated on practical matters and aesthetics”. They question the world around them, and hope that other people are interested in the same questions. They inspire to ask questions about earthlings, but not in a revolutionary way: “If we were after a world revolution, it would be wiser to choose a different medium than art.” So, talking about power systems, they have made a number of works titled “Powerless structures”, arising from (as they say) misreading Foucault, but more as momentary opened statement, than direct reflection, inspiring them to imagine even the invisible.
Their work in the beginning always looks very clinical, clean and white, but getting dirtier with age, it becomes very dark and gray, and sometimes colorful, like in “The collectors” at the Venice Biennale in 2009 ( a figure of a dead art collector floating face-down in a swimming pool ).
I would like also to give special meaning to “Van Gogh’s ear” at the Rockefeller center in New York – surrounded by skyscrapers, stands out as a surreal object uprooted from its usual environment. This one was custom made because of visual importance from all sides. The title opens up possibilities for a different perception of the form itself, it is an everyday object as art, showing us how nostalgia can function as a positive force.