24 Questions for Elmgreen & Dragset

24 Questions for Elmgreen & Dragset

Names: Ingar Dragset & Michael Elmgreen
Age: As a team we turn 16 this year.
Occupation: We are each half an artist, forming the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset
City/Neighborhood: Dragset lives and works in Neukoelln, Berlin; Elmgreen lives in London and works in Berlin.

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What project are you working on now?

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Dragset: We are preparing the last stuff that needs to go from our studio in Berlin to Rotterdam, for our solo exhibition and largest project to date, "The One and the Many." It's a collaboration with Museum Boijman van Beuningen and Port of Rotterdam in a new venue named the Submarine Wharf. We are also preparing for the debut on May 28th of a yearlong project at the Coolsingel in Rotterdam — "It's Never Too Late to Say Sorry."

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What's the last show that you saw?

Elmgreen: Bharti Kher's show at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris — we had a joint opening there on May 7th.

What's the last show that surprised you? Why?

Dragset: Our friend Kirsten Pieroth's show at Supportico Lopez in Berlin. Like many artists in Berlin at the moment, she was recently thrown out of her place due to the ongoing gentrification of the city. She made a series of works made elements of one single bed. It was a personal, poetic, and powerful show that reflects an individual's role in a relentless grander scheme. It surprised me because her work is normally less personal, more conceptual and based on historical material.

What's your favorite place to see art?

Elmgreen: Anywhere where the art suits the context. I always get the most out of art made for a specific situation.

Are you heading back to the Venice Biennale this year? If so, what are you looking forward to the most? Is there anything you're dreading?

Dragset: I spent so much time there two years ago, staging "The Collectors" at the Nordic and Danish pavilions. I'll skip the openings this year and see the biennial later, when the crowds are smaller. I'm especially looking forward to seeing Mike Nelson in the British pavilion and Allora & Caldezilla in the American.

What's the most important piece of advice for a novice Venice Biennale participant?

Elmgreen: Plan and install as early as possible — the logistical situation of Venice can be complicated. Bring everything! It is hard to find anything in Venice — all the shops are on the mainland. Collaborate with locals! If the cheek-kissing becomes too much grow a little beard — this is especially great for keeping most people away if you are girl.

What's the greater threat to your beleaguered "Prada, Marfa" installation, gun-toting locals or "Gossip Girl?"

Dragset: None of them — we believe the work is strong enough to survive both bullets and bimbos.

Do you make a living off your art?

Elmgreen: Yes. But for the first years, we were dependent on a combination of odd jobs, unemployment benefits, and grants from the Scandinavian welfare states. I wish every artist could get such grants and not have to jump onto the commercial treadmill right after school. Risk-taking is the most urgent force in making art.

What's the most indispensable item in your studio?

Dragset: The phone — Michael lives in London now, and we talk several times a day. Skype, too. The computer would be at the top of the list as well, though for moving ideas ahead, good old-fashioned pen and paper are also not bad. But without our wonderful team of assistants we would be totally lost.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

Elmgreen: All around — the seed of an idea can just as well be found in the street as in a philosophical text. There is no hierarchy in that sense. In the process of completing a work, there are of course many sources that feed into it: memory, neurosis, dialogues, desires and a good portion of childish beliefs.

Do you collect anything?

Dragset: I collect quirky Murano vases from the '70s. Their bonkers shapes and colors cheer me up.

What's the last artwork you purchased?

Dragset: An egg-holder-rack-cum-slide-projector tripod by the young British artist (young now, not in the '90s) Tim Davies.

What's the first artwork you ever sold?

Elmgreen & Dragset: A loom stretched across a window. We sold it to a young ballet dancer at the Royal Ballet in Copenhagen. Very encouraging. I met her again recently, and she has no idea where it is today.

What's the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?

Elmgreen: A mad person entered Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster's post-apocalyptically themed installation in the Tate Modern turbine hall on an otherwise ordinary weekday. He screamed that the end was near as he started tipping the installed bunk beds over and we all had to run for protection. It took the guards quite a while to surround him and close the show down. And it took me even longer to realize that this wasn't a staged performance or part of the show. The clash between real chaos and programmed chaos was pretty weird.

What's your art-world pet peeve?

Dragset: Its obsession with the market.

What's your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?

Dragset: In Berlin, it will typically be Bar 3 in Mitte or Möbel Olfe in Kreuzberg, where you are sure to meet artist colleagues.

Elmgreen: George and Dragons in East London, or later the Dalston Superstore.

Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?

Dragset: No, but I do find myself seeing more shows when traveling. In Berlin, I'm very homey and work-focused, mostly going to openings if friends are involved.

What's the last great book you read? 

Dragset: "Hate: A Romance" by the French writer Tristan Garcia. The title is quite horrific and maybe it's not a great novel per se, but it is certainly interesting and a bit different — the late century AIDS crisis in gay Paris described through academic warfare and clashes of class affinities.

What work of art do you wish you owned? 

Dragset: One of Vilhelm Hammershøi's paintings of empty white interiors from the end of the 19th century.

Elmgreen: Duchamp's Mona Lisa with mustache.

What would you do to get it? 

Dragset: I'm not that desperate to own it — it's better that it stays in a museum where other people can enjoy it as well.

What international art destination do you most want to visit? 

Dragset: Buenos Aires.

Elmgreen: I was there a few years ago and it is one of the most interesting places I have visited.

What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about? 

Elmgreen & Dragset: The late Spanish artist Pepe Espaliú's carrying sculptures.

Who's your favorite living artist? 

Dragset: Michael Elmgreen.

Elmgreen: Ingar Dragset

What are your hobbies? 

Dragset: Making music.

Elmgreen: Making silly mock-ups for industrial products that never go into production.