Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset seem to be on the quest to vivify our everyday institution by adapting a high modernistic but disquieting white on white to reveal a black hole, or rather, a hidden hiatus as a kind of inside out Kafka’s scenario, whereas viewer, in order to see, has to be in the act of acting. The exhibition This is the First Day of My Life in Malmö Konsthall unties their narrative with a theatrical reference mixed with the white cube setting—through interacting with their installation, the gravity of perception lies on the visitor’s experiencing and performing, we thus confront with the disguised freedom of choice, a twisted access to reality as the reality par excellence.
The interview with Elmgreen and Dragset is a result triggered by the experience in Malmö Konsthall, as well as a door for me to acquire a view of their fridge in the kitchen and a different space to park my thoughts on their practice. Usually taken as the string of institutional critique, their sculptural works that across art, design and architecture are in a genuine language reflecting upon the power relation situated in various spatiality while trying to break through a habitual boundary. Nevertheless, their work does not enclose its discursive formation, but on the opposite, leeks out its voice, waiting to be answered as questioning more. The artist duo actually challenges the assumed neutrality of whiteness, of white cube space, and they do not believe the so-called institutional critique could truly contribute to any change to the way institution exists. Powerless Structure Fig 19 (1998), the work consists of two pairs of white underwear in two pairs of jeans, in the corner of the empty Malmö Konsthall lobby as their famous signature signifies such voice to be yet heard, as a nostalgia for yesterday, to reverberate the presence of now and to draw a possible subtle connection to stimulate visitor’s participatory mode. Among their body of work, this sort of gesture/approach creates an intimate echoing from the visitors as they begin to fall with the gravity of the moment. Once they also share the limbo of time and space, they become parts of the performative relation within the work; their personal reflection and participation in the work extend themselves and are conceived in the reality that the work reflects upon.
Following this reading, Elmgreen and Dragset’s critique in fact addresses to us the viewer through the spatial setting, and takes account of our performative interaction to depict the “direction of demands”, since we as well constitute the everyday institution. That is to say, their work as a stage activates the fact that we are part of “how our small everyday is shaped”. If we remain dégagé, we may become parts of the consumerable coded options in the web of relations. Their work like their witty conversation gives light to the currents in attention to the time-based reality. Shall we ride with the moment, we obtain a new gravity to alter our understanding, and the barred subjectivity becomes bare, and maybe free to perceive again.