Elmgreen & Dragset: This Is How We Bite Our Tongue
27 September 2018 – 13 January 2019
Galleries 1, 8 and 9
Supported by Phillips
26 September 2018 – The first major overview of artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset in the UK combines ambitious immersive environment The Whitechapel Pool (2018) with six new sculptures and 29 works created over 20 years of the artists’ collaboration.
Michael Elmgreen (b. 1961, Copenhagen, Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (b. 1969, Trondheim, Norway) have worked together since 1995 and are now based in Berlin. Their beguiling spatial scenarios explore social and sexual politics and unveil the power structures embedded in the everyday. Through displacement and alteration they challenge the architecture of their exhibition venues allowing visitors to re-experience domestic and institutional settings.
Visitors to the exhibition are immediately transported to a vast, eerily abandoned public swimming pool. Commissioned especially for Whitechapel Gallery, The Whitechapel Pool points to a loss of faith in public space in an era of austerity. The commission is accompanied by a fictional narrative charting the swimming pool’s rise and fall, from its philanthropic founding in 1901 to its rise as a famed public amenity and its politically sanctioned and commercially driven decline.
One gallery is dedicated to Self Portraits – monumental labels carved in marble or painted on canvas – that pay tribute to works of art that have inspired the artists and shaped their identity. Their tributes to artists ranging from Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) to Mark Morrisroe (1959-1989) are accompanied by a desk complete with a diary and a bottle of whiskey. The Bottle and the Book (2015) invites visitors to break common gallery rules by sitting on the artwork and taking a drink.
This Is How We Bite Our Tongue culminates with a display of figurative sculptures presented in a chapel-like atmosphere, much like relics or icons. According to the artists, they ‘speak of misguided reverence and of judgement, lust and fear’.
Some sculptures question traditional perceptions of masculinity: in One Day (2015) a young boy gazes at a rifle in a display case; while Invisible (2017) depicts a boy hiding inside a mantelpiece. The housemaid is a recurring figure in the artists’ oeuvre; here Pregnant White Maid (2017) might serve as a symbol of abuse or bear hope of the future. In Elmgreen & Dragset’s uncanny universe, we will never know for sure.
Elmgreen & Dragset said: “This is How We Bite Our Tongue is an exhibition about emotions held inside, not said out loud. It is about withdrawal and resignation, about absence and impermanence, the feeling of loss, of losing agency as well as community. But it is also about reconciliation and resilience”. The artists draw inspiration from the 19th-century Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864 – 1916), who subtly turned his depictions of domestic spaces into psychological dramas of bourgeois repression.
Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, said “Having sited a monumental boy on a rocking horse among the admirals of Trafalgar Square, revealed a failed modernist architect’s flat inside the V&A and perched a vulture in the trees of Regent’s Park, Elmgreen & Dragset will make visible the disappearance of civic space while also offering an overview of two decades of their uncanny sculpture”.
Dina Amin, Phillips’ Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art Department, Europe, said: “This Is How We Bite Our Tongue is the first major overview for artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset and Phillips is thrilled to support Whitechapel Gallery for this widely anticipated exhibition. At Phillips, we continue to champion and support the work of artists whose transformative works challenge and excite the imagination. Our goal is to foster a new dialogue about artists like Elmgreen & Dragset and we look forward to welcoming both new and longstanding admirers of theirs to this exhibition.”
Notes to Editors
About Elmgreen & Dragset
Michael Elmgreen (born 1961 in Copenhagen, Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (born 1969 in Trondheim, Norway) are based in Berlin and have worked together as an artist duo since 1995. They have held numerous solo exhibitions in art institutions worldwide, including Museum Haus Lange, Kunstmuseen Krefeld (2017); FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2016); Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2016); Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2016); PLATEAU, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2015); Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen (2014); Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (2014); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2013); Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2011); ZKM Museum of Modern Art, Karlsruhe (2010); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (2009); The Power Plant, Toronto (2006); Serpentine Gallery, London (2006); Tate Modern, London (2004); and Kunsthalle Zürich (2001). Their work has been included in the Istanbul (2013, 2011, 2001), Liverpool (2012), Performa 11 (New York, 2011), Singapore (2011), Moscow (2011, 2007), Venice (2009, 2003), Gwangju (2006, 2002), São Paulo (2002), and Berlin (1998) biennials.
In 2005 the artists installed the sculpture Prada Marfa, a replica Prada store, in the Texan desert. In 2009 they received a special mention for their exhibition “The Collectors” in the Nordic and Danish Pavilions at the 53rd Venice Biennale. The artists were shortlisted for the Hugo Boss Prize, Guggenheim Museum, New York (2000) and won the Preis der Nationalgalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2002). In 2012 they were selected for London’s Fourth Plinth Commission in Trafalgar Square, and in summer 2016 Public Art Fund presented their sculpture “Van Gogh’s Ear” at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Elmgreen & Dragset curated the 15th Istanbul Biennial in 2017.
About Whitechapel Gallery
For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world class artists from modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle, Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George and Mark Wallinger. With beautiful galleries, exhibitions, artist commissions, collection displays, historic archives, education resources, inspiring art courses, dining room and bookshop, the Gallery is open all year round, so there is always something free to see. It is a touchstone for contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter.
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With additional support from:
Victoria Miro, London / Venice.
The Elmgreen & Dragset Exhibition Circle: Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip Aarons, Massimo de Carlo, Milan/London/Hong Kong, Mimi Dusselier and Bernard Soens, Füsun & Faruk Eczacibasi, Dr Alex Hooi and Keir McGuinness, König Galerie, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Galleri Nicolai Wallner.
Danish Arts Foundation, New Carlsberg Foundation, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, The Royal Norwegian Embassy in London.
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