About the Work

MICHAEL ELMGREEN & INGAR DRAGSET

ABOUT THE WORK

 


  MICHAEL ELMGREEN & INGAR DRAGSET
     Coupled, Fig. 2 (Front to Front), 2001
Metal and rubber
116 x 155 x 47 cm
The sculpture appears to comprise two utterly ordinary implements but closer scrutiny reveals the paradoxical condition of the hand trucks: they are useless because they have been combined into one.

WHEN IMPLEMENTS BECOME ART
Traditionally hand trucks are associated with hard, masculine labour. In a museum of art workmen use them when mounting exhibitions. Here, however, Elmgreen & Dragset have altered the 'identity' of the hand trucks in one fell swoop. They are no longer characterised by their functionality but quite the opposite: an artistic uselessness. The changes produce an absurd but also humorous sculpture that works as a sculpture because it is no longer a hand truck.

Coupled Fig. 2 (Front to Front) comments the discussion of art vs non-art and Elmgreen & Dragset's personal lives. They are a couple artistically as well as they used to be privately, and the work's title can be read as an allusion to the emotional and physical affinity or coupling experienced by lovers.

IS WHITE NEUTRAL?
Coupled Fig. 2 (Front to Front) was created for the series Powerless Structures in which the duo executed a number of 'impotent' or 'ineffective' structures. They are paradoxical but also humorous simply because they do not function as they ought. Characteristic of the structures is their heterogeneity: they are not assigned to one function but can be read in any number of ways. Their meanings can be discussed and changed and new ones can emerge.

In several pieces the subject is the modern white exhibition space, the so-called white cube, or as in Coupled Fig.2 (Front to Front) the objects used in an exhibition context. Elmgreen & Dragset regard the exhibition space in museums and galleries as an ideological construction, shaped by as diverse factors as sociology, art history and western culture.

The white cube was conceived as the ultimate exhibition space: neutral, emptied and free of the chaos and noise of the outside world. This perception has since been heavily discussed, e.g. the exhibition space has been criticised with being closely linked with a certain outlook on art, a certain aesthetics and capitalist speculation in a commercial art market. There are written and unwritten rules dictating our behaviour in and use of such a room.

Elmgreen & Dragset have often employed the white colour because it is perceived as neutral and objective. The couple stages such perceptions by literally turning upside down the normal exhibition space and the objects used by museum staff when mounting an exhibition.

Elmgreen & Dragset's art in general
Elmgreen & Dragset are interested in the aspects and conducts that convey cultural, social, political and historical relations in the art world and society at large. The way they combine art, architecture and design they succeed in turning 'normality' upside down and challenge the expected.

WHAT IS NORMAL?
The works are based in something recognisable, the looks and use of which we all have perceptions about. Subsequently the duo perform certain changes that cause us to consider why we have these perceptions and where they stem from. More than anything Elmgreen & Dragset challenge our notions of 'normality'.

They have endeavoured to show how established norms and conceptions govern our understanding of reality. As artists and gay they strike at the unconscious notions that determine why, when and how a person or an object falls outside our conception of normality.

Like other artists of their generation Elmgreen & Dragset treat art as inseparable from the social world. They are engaged in social and political questions as well as aesthetic ones, and in their art these questions are combined.

HOMOSEXUAL BASIS
A number of Elmgreen & Dragset's works deal overtly with their homosexuality. They use their homosexuality as an essential approach to the understanding of their works and the subjects they explore in their art.

In several of the works the homosexual basis introduces a physical element as a contrast to the white space which we usually associate with thought rather than physical activity of various kinds. In Pavilion / Powerless Structure, Fig. 55 Elmgreen & Dragset have combined the exhibition space with a so-called backroom, a fixture in gay bars where men can observe other men engaging in sex. The installation produces a paradoxical change for both groups of users whose conceptions of the otherwise familiar room are jerked.

Arken
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