Being a huge fan of the Berlin-based artists Elmgreen & Dragset, we were simply thrilled when we found out that the Danish/Norwegian art duo were holding their exhibition ‘Biography‘ at Astrup Fearnley. It’s actually their first one in Oslo, Norway. If you’re not familiar with their previous works of art, you should definitely check them out. They have collaborated since 1995, and are famous for their works like ‘Short Cut‘ (1996) and for placing a replica of a Prada store in the desert of Texas with their work ‘Prada Marfa‘ (2005). They have even designed the ‘Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism‘, that was opened in Berlin in 2008. These are only few of their works, and there are plenty more which has been shown in their many exhibitions around the world. What is so amazing with their art, is that their works tells stories – strange, bizarre and surreal. Somehow their art is lifeless in a life-like way.
Already on the way to the museum, you can spot a scarecrow on the roof, which actually is a piece of the exhibition and entitled ‘Civilised’ (2012). As you enter the front door, you meet another artwork, ‘Crash…Boom…Bang!’ (2008), which depicts some boxes containing artwork of famous artists such as Koons and Hirst. Inside the museum we were greeted by a nice lady that told us that we could leave our belongings in the locker room downstairs. Little did we know, that we were already inside the exhibition. As we entered the locker room we suddenly found that we were inside a wardrobe of a gay sauna called ‘Amigos’ (2011).
We went upstairs to ground floor again, and entered a nightclub called ‘The Mirror’ (2008). This was actually used for the opening party for the exhibition, and it hadn’t been cleaned since. Therefore the room gives you a ‘the day after’-vibe with empty leftover beer bottles, ash trays, stains, broken glass and with the stereo still playing. A big disco ball lying on the floor, leaving us wondering what happened last night. The song on the stereo is called ‘Too late’ (2014) and was actually composed for this special occasion. We went further into the exhibition and found a heap of trash, with a garbage bin turned atop of it, in the artwork ‘Landslide’ (2002). A comment on the consumerism of todays human society?
Close to it, there’s a pool with a floating body in it. This piece is called ‘Death of a Collector’ (2009), which also featured in their exhibition ‘The Collectors’ at the 2009’s Venice Biennale. As we’re looking at this art piece, a woman walks by only wearing a bathing suit, obviously one of the performance works of the exhibition. In a way you feel uncomfortable on her behalf, which probably is the intention from the artists. Is this a criticism towards the conformity and high culture associated with the world of art?
At the end of the first floor, there’s a stereotype waiting room with a broken queuing system, some chairs, a dying palm tree and a door with a queue counter blinking ‘0000’. The door has a crack in it, and you will obviously be waiting here for a long time. The piece is called ‘It’s The Small Things in Life That Really Matter, Blah, Blah, Blah’ (2006) and might be a look on the bureaucracy of society.
Upstairs there’s a man painting the walls white over and over again, without any specific reason. A comment Elmgreen had on this art piece was that it was ‘…a bit embarrassing that Astrup Fearnley didn’t finish the exhibition in time’. Therefore the painter had to do endless Sisyphus work without results. On the other wall there are hanging identical pieces of framed white canvases, named after the worlds most famous museums (like Guggenheim). When we took a closer look, the white color was all in different shades. Turns out Elmgreen and Dragset with the help of conservators had removed a square of the white painting found on the different museum walls, turning them into pieces of art.
The exhibition has been commented as melancholic, and with a sense of destruction. I felt that the exhibition also in a way expressed a longing and a hopeless state. I haven’t commented everything from the exhibition in this article, so you should really go and see for yourself. All I can say, is that the art of Elmgreen & Dragset is very diverse, and truly amazing!
You can visit the exhibition ‘Biography’ at Astrup Fearnley in Oslo until August 24th, 2014!