Questionnaire: Elmgreen & Dragset
Q: What images keep you company in the space where you work?
Ingar Dragset: Images can be distracting, but we have a stairwell at the studio filled with art from friends and colleagues.
Michael Elmgreen: We don’t keep a lot of art in our studio. But, alongside snapshots of friends, we have a collage by Henrik Olesen, a drawing by Mark Dion, an early work by Danh Vō, a print by Monica Bonvicini and a small print of us cross-peeing in a park, which was the first performance piece we ever did together, back in 1995.
What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?
ID: The tapestries of Hannah Ryggen. I saw them several times as a child at the local museum of applied arts in Trondheim, where I grew up. They made me realize that art has the potential to be political and that personal life and world affairs can be intricately linked.
ME: Works by Robert Gober and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. A show by Hannah Wilke in Copenhagen.
If you could live with only one piece of art, what would it be?
ID & ME: Hopefully that would never be the case.
What is your favourite title of an artwork?
ID & ME: Titles are best when they create the meaning of the work, like Gonzalez-Torres’s (Untitled) Perfect Lovers (1990).
What do you wish you knew?
ID & ME: How to make fear disappear. Fear is what makes people mistrust each other and it triggers narrow-mindedness. Hopefully, art can help make its audience less fearful, for a little while at least.
What should change?
ID & ME: The scary return of populist politics in so many places in the world.
What should stay the same?
ID & ME: People’s love for each other.
What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?
ME: I was a pretty bad poet before becoming an artist and I think I would be a rather terrible architect too. A chaotic thinker or maybe a criminal. Perhaps an industrial designer, since I like to change the form and function of everyday products. I once designed a rice cooker that was launched by Wallpaper, but it never went into mass production.
ID: Is it too late to become a ballet dancer?
What music are you listening to?
ME: Perfume Genius.
ID: Right now, Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee (Snow, 2008), which feels suitably inappropriate for a hot summer day. But this morning I listened to Rihanna’s ‘Love on the Brain’ (2016), which has become a bit of a morning ritual this summer.
What are you reading?
ID & ME: Anything that has anything to do with an understanding of home, belonging and being neighbours, as ‘a good neighbour’ is the title (and theme) of the 15th Istanbul Biennial. Right now: Didier Eribon’s Retour à Reims (Returning to Reims, 2013).
What do you like the look of?
ID: Japanese ceramics.
What is art for?
ID & ME: Exploration of ideas that have no other field.
Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset are based in Berlin, Germany, and have worked together as an artist duo since 1995. They are the curators of the 15th Istanbul Biennial, Turkey, which runs from 16 September until 12 November, 2017.
First published in Issue 189