This Is How We Bite Our TongueElmgreen & Dragset

Uncanny installations and institutional spaces are transformed into
metaphors for individual desires and collective identities.


Working together since 1995, artist duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset produce beguiling spatial scenarios that explore social and sexual politics and unveil the power structures embedded in the everyday designs that surround us. In their uncanny installations, institutional spaces are transformed into metaphors for individual desires and collective identities with subversive wit and tongue-in-cheek melancholy.
Whitechapel Gallery presents the transformation of its ground-floor gallery into a vast, eerily abandoned public swimming pool. The Whitechapel Pool (2018) is a large-scale site-specific installation created by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset. It relates to the gentrification of London’s East End and is created especially for Whitechapel Gallery as part of “This is How We Bite Our Tongue”, a major survey exhibition of the artists.
The commission is accompanied by a fictional narrative charting the swimming pool’s rise and fall, from its philanthropic founding in 1901 to its rise as a famed public amenity and its politically sanctioned and commercially driven decline. The Whitechapel Pool is empty of water, its municipal tiles grimy and plaster peeling. Visitors to “This is How We Bite Our Tongue” are immediately transported to this deserted civic space. The work points to a loss of faith in public space in an era of austerity.

“East London saw intense gentrification in the last ten years. Bars where artists used to meet closed, artists’ studios were turned into luxury loft apartments. At the same time poorer boroughs experienced the effect of austerity politics. Our derelict swimming pool relates to this metamorphosis of local communities. It is also a sentimental image of painful transitions in general – the shift of values – and how it can be difficult as a human being and as a citizen to adjust to such challenges.” Elmgreen & Dragset

This exhibition juxtaposes a survey of their emotional figurative sculptures with an extraordinary new large-scale installation that meditates on the fate of civic space.

Learn more about the exhibition “This Is How We Bite Our Tongue”
at Whitechapel Gallery
27 September 2018 – 13 January 2019