Well they where never going to make it simple where they?
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the current home of Elmgreen and Dragset’s “Tomorrow” show, was established in 1852 after the rip-roaring success of the Great Exhibition of 1851. The museum now based in South Kennsington , London’s equivalent to the European Museum Quarter, is a treasure trove of beautiful creations from around the world from the birth of the modern human to, well I guess, the most modern thing on display is the current Elmgreen & Dragset installation in the former Textiles galleries.
Micheal Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have almost 20 years of a career that is anything but happy to stay in a comfort zone, from placing a statue of a child on a rocking horse on the forth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square to dropping a replica Prada boutique store on a nowhere Texan desert road, these boys seem to see the art world and our preconceptions of what to expect not as something to be guided by but the art world throwing down the gauntlet as a challenge.
This installation, ‘Tomorrow: Scenes from an unrealized film”, puts you in a grand town house that is the home of Norman Swann, a fictional character created by Elmgreen and Dragset. Normann Swann is 74 and a bitter man as he ‘did not achieve any success as an architect and he never managed to realise a single one of his projects’. On entering the space there is no wall text for the aimlessly wandering tourist to read but a 120 page paperback script which tell the story of how Normann Swann’s life is falling apart after his past student of architecture, Daniel, a now successful interior designer, has bought Normanns decaying family town house and, Daniel, slightly two sheets to the wind, has come round late one evening with a lady he has met while out not expecting to find Normann still residing in the property. The story unfolds many twist and turns with the hero and villains never really being determined as by the time you are sympathising with a certain character E&D twist the balance. The characters as the plot thickens feel like symbols of how easy we form opinions and once that opinion has been made how we stand strong and how warped our perceptions can be made once we ourselves believe in something for long enough- How right we all are.
The story of these three characters and the premise of the plot is not the making of the show but merely a vehicle to question the objects that adorn this fictitious house and the time and meanings they play in reality- from Art to Artefact, creation and ownership, time and decay, love and lust. The rooms are filled with pieces from the V&A archive, original works by the artist and modern features such as a plush kitchen in the process of being fitted and a stray box of enticing Tic Tacs. The viewers in the space are encouraged to nose and rifle through this theatrical set, in draws and book cases, to learn more about Elmgreen and Dragsets created character; and as you do the apartment and its contents create a very rich and real character that while you walk around this apartment and read the story everything seems very personal, almost seeing the play as you relax on Normanns sofa, or Daniels sofa depending on who you consider owns the property and its contents.
Elmgreen & Dragset do not seem intimidated by these grand projects they embark on and on review they don’t seem to cripple under the pressure either. They have here proved there power of understanding a space and the duty and resonponsabillity involved; the V&A is a loaded space to exhibit contemporary art work, in amounts a building that holds some for the greatest art and artefacts in human existence, but Elmgreen and Dragset pull it off with such ease using the weight of this holy temple of human creation as just another challenge to offer the viewer.
Thanks again boys for another engaging work that will wreak havoc on my mind: And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Tomorrow” is on view through January 2nd, 2013.
-Contributed by Robert Strang