GentrificationElmgreen&Dragset

Situations in socio-cultural context: the artist duo
interviewed by Francesco Tenaglia.

Elmgreen-1

Elmgeen & Dragset, “Death of Collector” 2009 at the Venice Biennal

 

“First of all, it’s good that there now seems to be a better awareness of how artists and people working in creative fields can quickly become “part of the problem” in relation to gentrification. It’s at least a start, and one can be more observant of what is happening around oneself, and enter into dialogues with local communities, support local businesses and initiatives, etc.” Elmgreen&Dragset

FT Your solo exhibition, presented at Whitechapel in London earlier this Fall, included a pool in a state of neglect – an image that can be found in many cities. It is not the first time you use this recreational space as a starting point for your work: I’m thinking of course about Van Gogh’s Ear (2016), a swimming pool in the middle of the Rockefeller Center, and Death of Collector (2009). Where does the charm for this object come from?

E&D It all started with a diving board, actually. One of our first sculptural works, Powerless Structures, was a diving board that penetrated a panoramic windowpane at the Louisiana Museum in Humlebaek, north of Copenhagen. The inspiration for this work was partly David Hockney’s famous painting, A Bigger Splash, and partly the discourses at that time around the inclusion and exclusion of queer identities and minorities within established (art) institutions. We made it so the diving board got stuck – dysfunctional – caught in the middle, halfway between inside and outside.

Hockney’s Californian swimming pools, vividly gay and colorful, may seem far away from the queer reality of Scandinavia, from the new reality of the AIDS crisis, or from the Nordic social democratic mode-de-vivre in general, but the idea of a private pool has nevertheless infiltrated people’s minds everywhere as an ultimate symbol of middle class luxury and of having made it in life. We first challenged this idea with Death of a Collector in front of the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennial in 2009: in this sculptural installation, the mysterious Mr. B., a wealthy bachelor art collector seemingly living in the pavilion, was seen floating face-down in the pool, having left his Prada shoes and socks neatly on its edge. The whole scene was reminiscent of the opening and closing images of the film classic Sunset Boulevard.

 

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