Consistently questioning traditional perceptional patterns in their sculptures, installations, and performances, the work of artist duo Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset (*1961/*1969) has long been considered as epitomizing the most innovative attitudes in the international contemporary art scene. At the interface of minimalist aesthetics and the analytical examination of art-immanent discourse as continue to be held on the ‘White Cube’, for example, on socio-political aspects, namely, on the relationship between (sub) culture and public space, and on the general definition and redefinition of socially relevant structures, Elmgreen’s & Dragset’s work signifies a unique take in the topography of international art.
Their artwork is represented by numerous international museums and private collections. Spectacular projects, such as the fake of a Prada boutique in the Texas desert, a mobile home apparently erupting through the ground in the center of the distinguished Milan shopping gallery Emanuele II, or the monument for the homosexuals persecuted by the National Socialists in Berlin have made them well-known to a broad public. With their (curatorial) project The Collectors, shown at the Venice Biennale 2009, Elmgreen & Dragset were the first in the long history of the Biennale to undertake a joint design of the Nordic and Danish pavilion. Their work ensured them both enormous popularity among the public and international critical acclaim.
With Celebrity - The One & the Many, showing from November 2010 to March 2011, the ZKM : Museum of Contemporary Art in Karlsruhe, has organized the first large-scale museum solo-exhibition by Elmgreen & Dragset in Germany. The artists are currently producing two spectacular installations for this exhibition. The exhibition will also be accompanied by a publication including comprehensive documentation of the exhibition at the ZKM : Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as the much-praised contribution to the Venice Biennale of 2009.
The exhibition Celebrity - The One & the Many, by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset on show at the ZKM : Museum of Contemporary Art investigates various aspects of socio-cultural milieu. This artistic presentation includes a staging of a series of different yet interwoven narratives which, by using randomly positioned stage lights, are aimed at directing attention towards numerous social, political, and artistic aspects. Among others, Celebrity emphasizes the relationship between ‘the one and the many,’ the one being a prominent personality, an icon, an a-list type, and the mass - that mass of ‘normal’ people, and investigates the ways in which the lifestyle of the rich and famous is mediated to a broad public by way of staged and affected realities. Notoriously, distortions, rumors, gossip, and half-truths play a role in the stories of the glamour world, eliciting either dream-worlds or scandals.
The various ideas informing the exhibition are realized and presented in the two atriums of the ZKM : Museum of Contemporary Art created especially for the museum’s unique architectural features: a four-storey residential tower block and what appears to be a neo-classical ballroom. This high-rise residential colossus located in the first atrium, that ‘normal’ residential housing, cannot be entered. It is possible, however, for the viewer to look into the numerous apartments from without and from the atrium’s galleries. Various scenarios are played out behind the windows, the most diverse of narratives enacted. The museum’s second atrium is dominated by an empty hall annexed to which is a fictive hall where a VIP party is in full swing. One cannot participate in the party; the events unfolding within can only be imagined by the silhouette cast on the frosted glass panes of the closed doors.
The exhibition visitor is barred from the exclusive society only able to hear the noises of the excessive party taking place within. Contrasts such as poverty and wealth, oppressive everydayness and glamour run through the exhibition’s installations as common thread. Thus the visitor becomes a performative element for those other visitors observing from above, from the higher floors of the museum, and hence become part of the installation in the sense of an extended concept of sculpture.
Elmgreen and Dragset, The Collectors, Danish Pavilion, Venice, Italy
Elmgreen and Dragset, SUPERMODELS, Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, Japan