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Biography - Elmgreen & Dragset

  • Staten Museum for Kunst
  • Staten Museum for Kunst
  • Staten Museum for Kunst
  • Staten Museum for Kunst
December 27, 2014
Ana Bambic Kostov is an art historian with passion for contemporary art.

The end of the year somehow always sparks the same emotions. Some immerse into the holiday spirit, having a jolly good time, while others tend to delve into less cheerful subjects. Contemplation upon the year behind, the year to come and subsequently – life as a whole, are inevitable in those cases. Not to get lost in the never-ending search for cosmic meaning, we suggest an art relief from the tough end-of-year philosophy, and there’s hardly a more appropriate show to see at the end of December than the one titled – Biography. Biography exhibition has been installed at the Staten Museum for Art in Copenhagen since September, ending on January 4, 2015. Appropriately put at the end of the year, it brings some of the humor-seasoned interpretations of life by a Danish-Norwegian artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset, who were a part of public art program at Art Basel Miami.

Staten Museum for Kunst
Elmgreen & Dragset, Untitled, 2011. Photo Anders Sune Berg

Elmgreen & Dragset Speak of Life

Staten Museum for Kunst – SMK has been completely taken over by the comprehensive installation by Elmgreen & Dragset, but what else is to be expected from a Biography. The show is comprised of several live-size sections, with completely recreated apartment rooms, monumental sculptures and installations that transform the space setting, dressing it in the robe of a surreal, tangible place with familiar objects, situations and mini-environments. Naturally, the all-too-familiar exhibition leaves a number of interpretation doors open, toying with the notion of biography, and therefore – life and living. Without hinting exactly to a specific identity of the one person whose life the observer is passing through, we are forced to ask ourselves – whose biography is this? Yours, mine, how was it made? the eerie feeling of deja vu does not leave the visitor, but it lingers in the air as a reminder more than a threat. The show can also be viewed objectively, as a figurative retrospective, where one’s life is correlated with one’s artistic life, constructing an allegorical narrative through which the development phases can be observed. Condensing all of the possible meanings into one, Elmgreen & Dragset have raised an important question of whether it is even possible to compose a complete biography today, having all the aspects of life in mind.

Staten Museum for Kunst
Elmgreen & Dragset, The One & the Many, 2010. Photo Anders Sune Berg

Everyday Meets Universal

The Biography show itself is divided into three large-scale installation sectors. In the lobby of the museum, a tall building is recreated, out of concrete blocks. The piece is named The One & the Many, allowing the visitor to peek through its windows and see the graffiti hallways, apartments, rooms, various mini-life scenes. The next installation emulates the unsettling maze of life. Another exhibition hall recreates an outdoor nocturnal scene, populated with abandoned objects – a caravan, a dog, a pool with a drowned man in it. The atmosphere reeks of death and grim, introducing the decay and loneliness as integral parts of life. The installations are complemented with numerous sculptures and objects, including earlier and recent works.

Staten Museum for Kunst
Elmgreen & Dragset, Death of a Collector, 2009. Photo – Anders Sune Berg.
Staten Museum for Kunst
Elmgreen & Dragset, The Future, 2013. Photo Anders Sune Berg

Not A Conventional Life Tale

Organization of the Biography is everything but conventional, with enough suggestiveness and enough blandness to involve each viewer in a very distinctive way. An obvious narrative nature of the show is compared, even by the artists themselves, with a film set, a stage for an imagined, universal life of a middle-class man, what it represents and how it’s perceived. Show by Elmgreen & Dragset also contains an element that should not be forgotten – a biography of their own. The show can also be understood as a subtle reflection on their own lives and collaboration, while it is inspirational enough to ignite the ever-necessary pondering about ourselves. If there is an immersive show good to be seen at the end of the year, Biography is it, especially for those who get depressed around holidays. There’s something comforting in knowing everybody ends up the same, alone, in an empty waiting room for the afterlife, be he the man, the woman, the artist, or, as the cover image shows, the collector.

Biography by Elmgreen & Dragset opened in September, and it will remain on view through January 4, 2015.

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Staten Museum for Kunst
Elmgreen & Dragset, It’s the Small Things in Life That Really Matter, Blah, Blah, Blah, 2006. Photo Anders Sune Berg

Feature image: Elmgreen & Dragset, Death of a Collector, 2009

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