The Welfare Show Festval Exhibition 2005

“The building itself became an installation, the offices were encircled, walls torn down and new ones built, and the spaces totally reorganised”

Introduction “Taking Place” 2002 Publisher Hatje Cantz

Bergen Kunsthall is pleased to present Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset as the Bergen International Festival exhibitors for 2005.

Over the past ten years this duo have made a great impression on the international art scene by challenging conventional understanding of social spaces and institutional services in society. Through works consisting of objects, performances and installations Elmgreen & Dragset have put architectural symbols under the microscope, taking their meaning apart and constructing a new interpretation.

Since 1997 Elmgreen & Dragset have collaborated in ‘Powerless Structures’, a series that investigates conformity within public spaces such as museums, prisons, social security offices, hospitals and parks. ‘Powerless Structures’ has targeted the arts social structures and how art is presented and experienced. Here the “white cube” is examined. These institutionalised containers for art are subjected to transformation and reconstruction in Elmgreen & Dragsets work. Some are raised up to be floating, unattainable objects whilst others are buried. Some are deformed, turned upside down or thrown carelessly to the ground like useless constructions. The examination of the art institution is always executed through a veil of white: white paint, white light and white walls. Here Elmgreen & Dragset use the alleged neutrality of this colour and accentuate links with minimalist aesthetics, which are precisely the characteristics of the modernist cube and an autonomous art production. Elmgreen & Dragsets projects are by these means in dialogue with a long history of art projects where criticism of the institution is central. One thing that sets Elmgreen & Dragsets work apart is that they don’t seek to rid us of the institution, but instead to discuss what is there in a playful manner. One example of this is the work ‘Blocking the View’, which was shown at Tate Modern in 2003. In this huge industrial gallery space Elmgreen & Dragset placed a dead sparrow. Imprisoned between two panes of glass, this mechanised bird was having its final convulsions. Instead of focusing on the Tate Moderns architecture the artists presented a work that was so small, only the most observant of the public would ever experience it.

For the Bergen International Festival Elmgreen & Dragset wish to summarise previous themes in a larger context. They will present new work and installations produced specifically for Bergen Kunsthall. Under the title ‘The Welfare Show’ the artists will comment on elements that could be linked to the so-called welfare model. What is this welfare state that we speak of so warmly? How liberal and socially responsible is it? Has it ever actually existed? Is our whole political system now threatened by globalisation and multinational powers? No one will find an answer in this exhibition, but one can have ones preconceptions turned upside down, being drawn through a mini-society where the boundaries between institution, entertainment and reality are blurred, moved or switched.

A catalogue titled ‘The Welfare Show’ will also be available in conjunction with this exhibition.

Elmgreen & Dragset consists of Michael Elmgreen (born 1961) from Denmark and Ingar Dragset (born 1969) from Norway. Both live and work in Berlin.

The Bergen International Festival is their first solo exhibition in Norway.

Date: May 26th. – August 21st. 2005

Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset