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 – Whitechapel Gallery has today unveiled the transformation of its ground-floor gallery into a vast, eerily abandoned public swimming pool. The Whitechapel Pool (2018) is a large-scale site-specific installation created by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset. It relates to the gentrification of London’s East End and is created especially for Whitechapel Gallery as part of This is How We Bite Our Tongue, a major survey exhibition of the artists’ work opening tomorrow until 13 January 2019.
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. The Whitechapel Pool is empty of water, its municipal tiles grimy and plaster peeling. Visitors to This is How We Bite Our Tongue are immediately transported to this deserted civic space.
The work points to a loss of faith in public space in an era of austerity. Elmgreen & Dragset said:
“East London saw intense gentrification in the last ten years. Bars where artists used to meet closed, artists’ studios were turned into luxury loft apartments. At the same time poorer boroughs experienced the effect of austerity politics. Our derelict swimming pool relates to this metamorphosis of local communities. It is also a sentimental image of painful transitions in general – the shift of values – and how it can be difficult as a human being and as a citizen to adjust to such challenges.”
The artists’ fictional history for The Whitechapel Pool stresses the civic function of the pool. Founded through social reform in 1901, renovated in 1953 and used daily for decades by Aldgate residents, The Whitechapel Pool is reputedly the site where artist David Hockney made his first drawings of a swimming pool’s water surface. The artists’ narrative tells how the pool lost its funding during Thatcherism, was squatted, abandoned, and in 2016 sold to a developer during Boris Johnson’s last year as Mayor of London. Next, the pool will be renovated to become the main feature of a luxury hotel spa.
Exhibition curator Laura Smith said: “In The Whitechapel Pool Elmgreen & Dragset express nostalgia for the loss of civic spaces, demonstrating how individuals are impacted by government policies.”
In the environment of The Whitechapel Pool, gallery assistants become security guards patrolling the space in padded jackets with jangling keys. The artists also present additional works within The Whitechapel Pool. On one edge of the pool lies Some stayed on while others left (2018) a fallen statue of a headless male body evoking a classical sculpture and a time with different ideals. Nearby is Gay Marriage (2010), a work that consists of two urinals with their plumbing tangled and connected and Too Heavy (2017), a huge aluminium rock weighing down a trampoline. The swimming pool has been a recurrent theme in Elmgreen & Dragset’s work, from Death of a Collector (2009), where a fictional art collector was shown floating face down in a private pool, to Van Gogh’s Ear (2016), a swimming pool displayed vertically and placed in central New York. The Whitechapel Pool is Elmgreen & Dragset’s first work about a pool that is public and municipal in scale.
Notes to Editors
• The exhibition is curated by Laura Smith, Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery with Habda Rashid, Assistant Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery
• The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated publication including an interview between Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery and Elmgreen & Dragset as well as contributions from Ann Lui, Assistant Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Minna Moore Ede, Associate Curator, National Gallery, London; Laura Smith, Curator, Whitechapel Gallery; and Habda Rashid, Assistant Curator, Whitechapel Gallery.
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
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With additional support from:
Victoria Miro, London / Venice.
The Elmgreen & Dragset Exhibition Circle: Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip Aarons, Aud and Paolo Cuniberti, Massimo de Carlo, Milan/London/Hong Kong, Mimi Dusselier and Bernard Soens, Füsun & Faruk Eczacibasi, Dr Alex Hooi and Keir McGuinness, König Galerie, Galerie 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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