Artist duo creates radical installation for one museum
Discover how these unconventional artists are challenging the art world.
Scandinavian artists Michael Elmgreen and Ignar Dragset are considered rising stars of the contemporary art world for their anti-dogmatic approach to their work. They have held numerous solo art exhibitions in the world’s most prestigious art institutions. Their upcoming exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (TAMA), titled “Powerless Structures,” which just opened, promises not to disappoint. This will be the acclaimed artist duo’s first exhibition in Israel.
"Elmgreen & Dragset are among the most interesting artists working today within the contemporary art world, so it was only natural that the museum wanted to show them,” Ruti Direktor, chief curator of the exhibition at TAMA, told From The Grapevine. “They have been working together for the last 22 years, and have developed a unique language of art, very precise and subtle and at the same time poetic, human and with humor.”
Their art, which can take the form of sculptures, installations and even performances, is anything but predictable and challenges conventions about the presentation and appreciation of art. Since they first began working together in 1995, the duo has challenged the art world. “We wondered why everything had to be so standardized,” said Elmgreen. “Why all of the spaces almost looked alike, and we wondered if it would be possible to do it in a more friendly and joyful way.”
Not so surprisingly, the exhibition in Israel will feature eight installations displayed across multiple galleries in a deliberately disjointed manner. “Usually, an exhibition takes place in one gallery,” said Direktor. “All the works are gathered in one space, in order to gain the maximum impact, to be the most effective, coherent and ... powerful. Elmgreen & Dragset's exhibition in TAMA is different. It hardly has any focus, it is scattered throughout the museum, and meets the viewers by surprise.”
Direktor said the artists’ work is relatable; they take into account the more naive viewer who runs into their works without realizing it as a work of art. “A viewer that confronts the works and responds to them emotionally and intuitively,” explains Direktor. “I think that both types of viewers – the conscious one and the not-so-conscious – will benefit a lot from the exhibition.”
The “Powerless Structures” exhibition is titled after a well-known series of the artists’ works that investigates how structures – whether political, social, financial, cultural or physical – have the potential to be altered or interchanged, since these structures depend solely on our acceptance of their power. “The kind of art we do takes many formats and uses all kinds of materials and aesthetics,” Elmgreen told the Victoria and Albert Museum. “We’re not bound to certain materials or certain working practices.”
The artists in their lofty, light-filled studio in Berlin. (Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum)
Installations on display in the Israeli museum exhibit include Donation Box (2006), which is a transparent glass box positioned by the museum entrance filled with personal items, including a car key, flight ticket and a "Do Not Disturb" sign instead of the usual coins and bills. The top of the box is sealed off from additional donations. Inside the largest space in the museum, hangs The Future (2014), an installation of a lonely and pensive teenage boy sitting atop a fire escape. The Future is positioned together with a new installation, For as Long as it Lasts (2016), a full-size replica of a section of the iconic Berlin Wall. The wall serves as a blank surface for projection that can change according to each individual visitor. The installation also references Elmgreen and Dragset’s shared history in Berlin, where the artists moved in 1997 as a direct result of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Direktor said each exhibition from the artists is an opportunity to think anew about its basic components and the relationships between artwork and viewers. “The combination of their minimalist aesthetics, perhaps rooted in their Scandinavian background, with the topics they deal with, or relate to – gender, neoliberal society, global economy and so on – is very special,” said Direktor. “I appreciate the importance they give to all small details, sometimes just in order to create a feeling of a random and arbitrary situation.”
Lindsay E. Brown is the managing editor of Eco-Chick, the web’s first ethical fashion, beauty and travel site for women. She has written for Whole Living Magazine, Edible, and Cottages & Gardens. Lindsay has been featured as a fashion and beauty expert on the Veria Living Network. Lindsay holds a BS in Global Business Studies and Marketing from Manhattan College, and received the 2012 Honors Award at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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