Elmgreen & Dragset pursue questions of identity and belonging and question social, cultural, and political systems. Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset are based in Berlin and have worked together as an artist duo since 1995. They are interested in radically re-contextualizing objects and spaces.
These core ideas are fully explored in a large-scale show presented until 22nd August at Fondazione Prada in Milan which spans the entire space, from the courtyard to the exhibition spaces. One of the most ambitious shows by the artist to date, Useless Bodies? centres around questions related to the body and envisages how we physically adapt to working conditions, interpersonal relationships, and data.
As stated by Elmgreen & Dragset, “our bodies are no longer the main agents of our existence. They don’t generate value in our societies’ advanced production methods as they did in the industrial era. One could claim our physical selves have even become more of an obstacle than an advantage. In the 19th century, the body was the producer of daily goods, whereas, in the 20th century, the body’s role became more that of the consumer. Twenty years into the 21st century the status of the body is now that of the product – with our data gathered and sold by Big Tech. With the publicly available knowledge surrounding the harvesting of data from tech companies being so inane, and the rapidly accelerating rate at which such companies are expanding into every aspect of our lives, it does sometimes feel a little scary to think about our bodies’ future role.”
Perception of the body is a central theme that connects many aspects of the sculptural and performative work of the artists. The spectacular show explores subjects such as growing up, intimacy, identity, different modes of living and how we navigate the public sphere through installations, text and sculptures that continue their impressive career.
Following the exhibition route from the Podium to the Cisterna space, the audience will encounter several immersive pieces. The Milan premises of Fondazione Prada are transformed into a series of unique universes. These works are subtle alterations of everyday objects, none of which can be used as we would expect them to be. They encourage a re-evaluation of the ordinary and highlight how we negotiate the control mechanisms embedded in public spaces.
Image: Exhibition view “Useless Bodies?” Elmgreen & Dragset, ph. Andrea Rossetti