Made you look

Elmgreen & Dragset: the sculptural art duo changing the way we consider spaces and structures
By Fabien Kruszelnicki | Art | 5 January 2022
Above:

’12 Hours of White Paint/Powerless Structures’, Fig. 15, 1997

Deconstructing systems, one small step at a time – Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset tweak structures until they spontaneously disintegrate. It would be impossible to talk about site-specific, installation, land and public art from the past two decades without considering the artists, known for their unconventional sculptures that make the viewer consider space differently and question conventional laws of understanding.

Experiencing a piece by the pair can be joyous, unsettling and revealing in equal parts; reality is often skewed off-kilter and the processing of a near-normal situation through the lens of the duo’s repurposed world of narratives is unique. Shifts in physical relationships, roles, expectations and pre-conceived ideas are simultaneously playful and profound.

For The HERO Winter Annual 2020, we spoke to Elmgreen & Dragset in Berlin in Fall 2020 for a tour of their oeuvre.

Fabien Kruszelnicki: How are you both doing?
Ingar Dragset: Good thanks, considering Berlin is in lockdown.

FK: Yes, the whole year’s kind of been cancelled in a way.
ID: It has. We were lucky with our two big exhibitions this year because one was in Berlin at König Galerie, which opened just after the first lockdown, and our other big solo exhibition was in Finland, which wasn’t that hard-hit by the pandemic, so we could go there and the regulations were more relaxed. We could even go clubbing. It was our week of normality this year.

FK: You guys had an exhibition in East Hampton as well?
ID: True, but we didn’t travel for that.
Michael Elmgreen: We were able to manage a lot of things remotely, but it’s also a very strange way of doing art, to show your work but not be there, and instead, just directing people how to install it…
ID: “Installing by Zoom.”
ME: You don’t get any feedback in person, so it feels quite rigid. Part of doing art is also the social aspect of it, seeing people in front of your work, having reactions in real life. It’s very strange just to ship your works all around the globe and not be able to be there. In Hong Kong, K11 Musea have just installed the sculpture that we exhibited in Rockefeller Plaza, New York, in 2016 – Van Gogh’s Ear – like a big swimming pool that is standing upright. K11 installed it but we were not able to be there ourselves unfortunately – we could only see the process via Zoom and luckily follow the many reactions from visitors Instagramming.

‘Powerless Structures’, Fig. 11, 1997

FK: Were you there on Zoom for the launch of it? Was someone holding up the camera for you?
ME: No, in Hong Kong they are also not allowed to do big gatherings, so they just put it up – however, since it is an outdoor piece a lot of people have been able to experience it.
ID: Some institutions are finding new ways of launching things. K11 Musea made a mini version of the pool sculpture and gave it to influencers, people who have a following in Hong Kong, who started posting, so that become sort of like a launch, with the mini version [laughs].

FK: That’s quite interesting, how does social media work for you, are you actively involved in it?
ID: We just did a collaboration with Avant Arte, a company started by two young guys who discovered contemporary art though rap musicians, they have 2.1 million followers and they’re doing editions of prints with artists. It’s been interesting to see this young new generation reaching out to a much wider audience than any institution could dream of, almost. And they really do build up information, they pre-launch and they have a very particular way of using social media. It’s fun to be a part of.
ME: The ‘classic gallery’ has also tried to adapt to digital media, but in general galleries are maybe less used to this new format. It is a different kind of interaction than meeting the audience ‘live’ in the gallery space or at an art fair.
ID: Some are better at it than others.
ME: Some spend fortunes making high-end virtual presentations of artworks, but in my experience, scanning the pieces and putting them into virtual settings is not what collectors actually want. Nerdy and less professional walk-throughs on Zoom in the real physical gallery space for small groups, or one-to-one, are more personal and engaging
and somehow have a better effect. Platforms like Avant Art, however, run by young people who grew up with technology, only sell online and you can see there’s a completely different result. They know how to communicate through social media and they’re super successful.
ID: It feels more genuine.
ME: When the galleries try to do these ‘viewing rooms’ it’s a little bit like seeing two old people in a club.
ID: Like us! [all laugh]

‘Re-g(u)arding the Guards’, 2015

FK: I guess social media wasn’t originally invented for brands or business to use, so it’s interesting to see how companies try and move into that realm and how they speak to people.
ME: Also, in fashion, they’re now really depending on people buying online. New York department stores are closing one by one because they have these idiotic high rents. The cost of having an empty department store is so huge that brands care less about being stocked in shopping malls and department stores. But I must admit I still prefer to go to a retail store, like Voo here in Berlin, and get a personal service.
ID: There are also other ways to use social media, we did an Instagram Live for instance during lockdown with Linda Yablonsky, a New York art journalist friend of ours. She’s followed our work for many years so that was really nice to do, thousands of people watched. So it can work as a more serious format, IGTV and Instagram Live have actually been quite successful for us.
ME: But we do sculptures in order not to make our whole reality seem too two-dimensional. We also make art in order to give people an excuse to gather, to be together and share their experiences. These days we spend so much time in front of flat screens, we need to have occasions to go out, see each other, mingle and feel like human beings with our whole bodies. More than ever, the goal – or the function – for contemporary art, is to remind us that we need each other in a
physical way. Even when we have to socially distance, or are suddenly a bit of a danger to each other, it’s really important to not just sit at home and only contact the outside world and your friends through a screen.

FK: You definitely need some physical interaction. You guys originally started with performance, how did you get into that, and how did that develop into sculpture?
ID: I come from performance theatre and Michael used to write poetry around the time we met, and he’d already done some art projects in collaboration with other people. We met in the only gay club in Copenhagen called After Dark, then became boyfriends and realised during the first year of working together we had so many shared interests and had a very similar outlook. We wanted to do something together and the most natural way of doing that was to create art performances, happenings or durational performances, that were a mixture of our backgrounds somehow.

’12 Hours of White Paint/Powerless Structures’, Fig. 15, 1997

“What people get out of our presentations solely depends on them, because we are all so different, we feel and perceive the world in so many different ways.”

FK: Did you originally plan for these to be art pieces?
ID: We didn’t think too much about things being art or not art. It was part of a scene, mostly with people going to the art academy in Copenhagen, but I didn’t think of myself as an artist at that time at all. Sometimes the performances were in galleries or artist-run spaces, sometimes it was more like “Oh, let’s do a performance festival in the public toilet.” They were things you just did.
ME: There was a very small art scene in Scandinavia at the time. There wasn’t any pressure from galleries. You wouldn’t be invited by museums to show anything as a young artist, which was quite liberating actually because it meant you could do exactly what you wanted to. I started doing art because I was writing poetry, and when
you do poetry you sell very few of your small books, and if you do poetry in Danish you sell extremely few of your small poetry books and reach a very limited number of readers. So I was like, “This is a waste of paper, let me do it in another format.” So I started to experiment with text that would morph on computer monitors. These were old IBM computers at that time and the place I ended up showing these texts on monitors happened to be in an art space – though I didn’t think of it as ‘visual art’. People from literature didn’t turn up, but people from the art world did, and they thought it was conceptual art. So I started to get these weird invitations from other young artists to participate in shows. I think everything in our careers has purely been due to coincidences, it has all been very unprofessional, it has been based on some random opportunities and us saying, “Why not?” After doing performances for a while we thought, “Let’s give them a shock and make a sculpture.” We made one of our first sculptures in a big group show about young art in Denmark, back in ’97. It was a diving board penetrating a museum window, in the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark that was situated by the sea. The museum profited from people going just for the nice view and having a coffee in the cafeteria, which they were embarrassed about, so we wanted to play with that idea. We installed the diving board in a room that normally wouldn’t have any art in it, only some sofas where people would sit and look out over the sea. So we played with this inside-outside situation. We did it partly because we had started to get invitations from curators, if they made a show that was maybe too classic, they would invite the two of us to spice things up with some activity in the corner. We thought, “No way, we’re not going to be boxed in like that, let’s give them a sculpture.”

FK: I feel like the audience is quite important in your work. Can you tell me a bit more about the interaction between your ideas, and what you want the viewer to feel or think about?
ID: Coming from theatre – you [to Michael] were also interested in theatre way back – you have to be much more aware of there being an audience, it just doesn’t work without one. That’s one aspect, the other is that, through doing performance, you discover space in a different way and you become much more aware of movement in relation to physical structures. That makes us think about how the audience moves in a space where you show art. Maybe because we didn’t go to an art academy or have a formal art education, we always felt that it’s important to communicate clearly on these ideas. We felt a little bit ‘outside’ sometimes because we didn’t have this training that maybe some artists do, and they take it for granted a bit that people know what they know.
ME: There’s still an arrogance in parts of the art world where some look down on the general audience, like they’re an evil necessity. The Tate Modern didn’t trust their audience when they cancelled their Philip Guston show because they clearly thought the audience would be too stupid to understand it – how his paintings ironically feature KKK like cartoonish figures – and the museum freaked out because they feared people would misunderstand this. Besides, one has to remember that artworks always look very different with an audience. We once had the opportunity to go to the Louvre with a curator when it was completely empty, and we saw the Mona Lisa. She looked totally lost without the audience, almost like she wanted to ask, “Where are all the people?” It was a completely different experience seeing her without having these huge hoards. Often, we do whole environments where we use the audience as part of the exhibition, because when you go to a show you also look at each other, you notice that there are other people in the room, how they behave or how you appear in relation to them. When we did the show This Is How We Bite Our Tongue at Whitechapel Gallery, London in 2018, where we transformed the venue into an abandoned public swimming pool, you could really notice how people walked around and made stories about each other, stories about the history of the room. Some people even claimed they remembered when Whitechapel had been a public pool… it had never been one, it has always been an art space, but the experience became so much about how people behave in the space.

‘Van Gogh’s Ear’, 2016

FK: You mentioned you didn’t have any formal art education, but in the past you’ve also talked about the concept of artist as genius. When a piece incorporates the viewer and you are guiding them in a way, it’s almost like playing god, giving them an experience, leading them on a path.
ME: I think we just provide a platform where people can have an experience, a forum for a further exchange of thought. If you erase the look of the ‘white cube’, the conventional exhibition space, and turn it into something else, people look at the artworks in a different way. They think more about what the objects say to them. We try to undermine the patronising demand for ‘respecting’ the artworks, we try to dissolve the hierarchy or snobbishness of art viewing in some way. What people get out of our presentations solely depends on them, because we are all so different, we feel and perceive the world in so many different ways. If people experience our work in a completely different way than we intended because of their background, it’s equally valid, perhaps even better. We have had people explain what they experienced when seeing our work, which was far more beautiful than what we had hoped. So you better trust your audience. If you think they are idiots that’s really depressing. I don’t think museum directors and curators should have arrogant attitudes towards the abilities of their audience. Otherwise, fuck… close the museum. If you just think you are feeding the pigs then it becomes very misanthropic.
ID: The artist-genius idea is interesting when you’re an artist duo, because genius is associated with a single being – like a born genius – it doesn’t work when there are two of you. It’s all a dialogue, a creative persona.

FK: What about the idea of two geniuses coming together?
ID: [laughs] That’s very rare!
ME: That’s very chaotic. ‘Genius’ comes from this romantic notion of something spiritual hitting you from above, but I’m still waiting. I think I would be terrified!

FK: When you hear about your viewers’ different ideas of your work, does that ever change your ideas of what your pieces were about originally?
ME: Yes, even when we use pre-existing pieces in new exhibitions, we can place sculptures in completely new contexts and they start to tell different stories. If someone else were to do it, we would perhaps be worried, but we do it ourselves and in that way we’re not loyal to sculptures having static meanings. As human beings, we change all the time, the world is changing all the time. We look at pieces from the Renaissance in a completely different way today. When they made a replica of Michelangelo’s David sculpture at the V&A, they had to create a huge fig leaf to cover his penis in the Victorian era for when the Queen visited the museum. Sculptures’ meanings are changing over time.

‘Death of a Collector’, at Vennice Biennale, 2009

FK: With your piece 12 Hours of White Paint/Powerless Structures, Fig. 15 [the artists painted a gallery space with white paint over and over from midday to midnight] you were both physically making the artwork. There are lots of component parts, the physicality of making it, the duration, the idea of performance. It’s almost traditional, you are literally putting paint onto a surface like an artist making a painting. Have your thoughts on that piece changed from when you originally made it?
ID: At that time we were problematising the idea of the white cube and the rules and regulations that are embedded into both the physical and social structures that come with it. We wanted to test the structure of the gallery just by adding more of the material that it is made up of, to show the fragility of it. And it did sort of dissolve itself, just by adding layers and layers of white paint and spraying it with a pressure washer, it floated on the wall and became completely useless, and sort
of dirty. The colour white was also discussed in general through this piece, looking at it now of course, I say the word ‘fragility’ and you think about white fragility, if you read the piece in today’s light it can be talking about whiteness – us being two white guys and looking at the perceptions of whiteness in that sense – but it wasn’t at the time.
ME: We were questioning all the time why the rooms where art was displayed looked so alike all over the world. Again, because we were not schooled, we came into these sterile environments and thought, “Oh wow, New York looks exactly like we’re in London or Copenhagen.” The space might be bigger, but it would look exactly the same – grey concrete floor, white walls, so standardised. We wanted to test with how small a means you could disrupt that static structure, that formula filled with so much convention. The whole gallery system is still so classic, you still have this idea of an opening that is for the VIP’s, then the bigger crowds coming in the day after. Everything has to be prepared and presented in these white boxes, you have to pass a receptionist or ticket counter before you are lead in. It’s almost like a chapel, but even churches and Burger Kings around the world look kind of different. Galleries really look more or less the same.

FK: You’ve talked about [Michel] Foucault before in relation to your Powerless Structures works. The way I understand it, structures are constantly moving or are an interpretation of what people see, what people imagine them to be. How does that concept relate to your thinking, is it exactly that or do you have a different point of view?
ID: 12 Hours of White Paint for instance, was a very clear powerless structure work, transposing Foucault’s theory on to physical structure. We used his thinking and made physical experiments with it, to explore his philosophy through the artwork.

FK: Do you see artworks as experiments?
ID: Yes, very much so, because we don’t start off knowing what we are doing, as an artist it’s a constant research project. It’s about looking at things in a different way than you would as a scientist, a politician or sociologist. Perhaps we don’t use such clear parameters, maybe our approach is more emotionally- based, it can be more poetic, with no clear goal of reaching a certain solution. But the process itself can reveal elements that are valid in society.
ME: Sometimes our way of working has been labelled as critical, but I think it’s more hopeful than critical, because often we take established structures, change them a bit and suddenly everything is turned upside down, which triggers new meanings and possibilities. You can interpret everything in a completely different way, or spaces or objects or social situations become what we might name ‘powerless’, without authoritarian structures attached to them. For us it’s quite hopeful that by just making very small changes you can actually collapse a whole system. You can start from scratch again and build up something new, something different. You can break out from the conventional thinking patterns and start looking at the world from new perspectives, and for us it’s like, “Well if we can do that with these objects or spaces, it might be possible to do it in all other parts of life.”

’12 Hours of White Paint/Powerless Structures’, Fig. 15, 1997

FK: I’m always intrigued by technology and the future. If there were no restrictions on gravity, or the normal rules, is there anything exciting you would want to look into doing? Something which moves around in space, or something deep in the ground?
ID: Is this an invitation? [both laugh] I don’t think I can answer that right now, I’d have to have a think about it…
ME: For us it’s important to work with a lot of everyday life situations and re-discover the mystery in them, make them magic again, because one of the biggest threats for humanity right now is boredom. So many people think that they have seen everything, and that they can’t be surprised or amazed by anything, and that’s super dangerous. So to try, almost like children, to rediscover what’s already there, to look at it in a different way, is quite enough for us at the moment

FK: Are the titles of your work quite important to you?
ID: Yes.
ME: In the beginning when we did the Powerless Structures we just put figure numbers on them. Then, Powerless Structures became something everyone thought they understood, and art writers started to write about what it meant.
ID: It became a bit of a brand almost.
ME: Yes, we felt boxed in and the works would always be looked at in that context. So we thought, “OK, let’s start giving them titles,” and found out it could actually be quite fun to work with titles, even giving a piece a title that might not really fit with the artwork, so that the thinking can start somewhere in-between the title and what is there.
ID: You can work in different ways with language, you can work with the core idea of an artwork or you can work a bit against it to create a completely new association. One example would be Van Gogh’s Ear for instance. It’s a kidney shaped pool, but as we made it, we thought it could also look like an ear.
ME: Upside-down.
ID: Upside-down, it doesn’t really make sense, but somehow people just accepted it. What we did was conflate different ideas, the shape, yes, but also ideas around art and the artist’s role, leading to thoughts of Van Gogh who is arguably the most popular artist in the world.
ME: The romantic idea about the mad genius who cuts off his own ear. And still when people see it, they’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s Van Gogh’s ear,” as if we were actually looking at Van Gogh’s ear and were inspired to make a swimming pool. But the idea came after the object.
ID: Maybe we should try and cut off an ear? It would probably just be really, really sad.
ME: Oh man, we would have to cut off two ears.

’12 Hours of White Paint/Powerless Structures’, Fig. 15, 1997

“For us it’s quite hopeful that by just making very small changes you can actually collapse a whole system.”

FK: [laughs] There seem to be a couple of returning motifs in your work – you mention the pool, but the ground also seems to be part of a lot of your sculptures, things dug down or sunk into it.
ID: Well, there was an early piece we did called Dug Down Gallery/Powerless Structures, Fig. 45 [1998], which unfortunately did become a pool during the install process… it flooded the day before the opening.

FK: Oh no!
ID: It was repainted… anyway, at that time we were thinking a lot about changing the gaze, so the viewer didn’t come into a space or a park or public environment and see sculptures on the wall, or above them, being forced to look on these objects with awe and respect. If you look down, you’re more in power, you get completely different associations to something that’s below you. So Dug Down Gallery was again dealing with institutional structures, gallery structures, putting them under the earth. Around that time we also did the diving board, which was the first pool-themed work. Although there is no pool… It was partly inspired by David Hockney and his famous A Bigger Splash [1967], so it had queer undertones.
ME: Often when we do public sculptures we want to create situations where you feel you can interact with the artwork but you actually can’t. For example, you could jump into a pool, but Van Gogh’s Ear is a pool standing upright and there’s no water in it; it’s not possible to jump in. We also like to play with a physicality which is not just a phallic erection in the cityscape – because there’s a lot of architecture in our cities that already play with that – we want more to do something that is either dug down, or that has a kind of shape where you feel like you could penetrate, or jump into.

‘Watching’, 2016

FK: I also wanted to talk about the sculpture Watching [2016]. I wondered if you could tell me a little bit about that piece?
ME: As an art viewer you look at a sculpture, but with Watching, the sculpture also looks back at you, through binoculars – he’s a lifeguard, supposed to save you in case you drown It’s quite beautiful when people look at art because you are allowed to be a voyeur. If you look through your neighbours’ windows and watch them the same way, they might call the police. If you stare at people in the subway they might get aggressive, but we are allowed to turn ourselves into voyeurs when we stand in front of an artwork. We thought this situation was interesting in relation to making sculptures that would look back at you. We also made sculptures that talk, we did a play one night at The Old Vic theatre years ago – we made replicas of very famous or modernist sculptures by artists like Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepwoth and Jeff Koons, and they were remote-controlled around the stage. Then we had voiceovers from different actors, a dialogue where the sculptures would speak to each other and bicker with each other. We like to give these sculptures some kind of personality, a life.

FK: I really liked the series The Welfare Show, with the real-life guards in Re–g(u)arding the Guards [2005]. You have people in your work quite often.
ID: Yes, it came from the performance work in the beginning. We stopped performing ourselves and started involving other people, which led us to involve actual guards in the installation, like the project we did at the Venice Biennale called The Collectors [2009]. The guards there also became performers, they were younger guys, seeming to have been the lover of a character we created for the Nordic Pavillion. There was a dead collector floating in the pool outside, so a sort of narrative developed. Had they moved in after he died? Did they kill him? People spun all kind of stories around that. Then in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where we created a fictional story around and elderly architect [for Tomorrow, 2013, the piece featured a series of rooms that set the stage for an ‘unrealised drama to create an unexpected encounter for the museum visitor’] – the guards there became maid or butler characters. We collaborated with the team at the Victoria and Albert Museum so the guards approached the audience in a slightly different way than they normally would, they were dressed up a bit differently and could talk to people as if they were part of the household somehow. Re-G(u)arding the Guards was a little different because there we worked with people who were unemployed at the time. There was a tendency in institutions to get cheap labour this way as well, so it commented on social systems where you could get cheap labour, basically through the misery of society.
ME: The jobs people are forced to take on when they are on benefits might often be something completely meaningless, so here we were taking this to its extreme, having these guards sitting guarding nothing, because it was only them in the room. But at the same time, the role was meaningful, because individuals were actually turned into actors, sitting there as artworks themselves. It was definitely a comment on how people have to work for the money they receive.

FK: Do you put your actors through an audition?
ID: It’s very important to have conversations before. You’re in a vulnerable situation once you’re put in front of an audience, they look and project what they want onto you. You can talk about these different aspects, audience’s different potential reactions, imagine what could happen, what they could say, what they could expect you to answer and so on.
ME: Again, it’s also about the trust of the institution. At the V&A when we said we wanted to activate guards who were already there, so they had some kind of role instead of just being necessary for security and not announcing themselves too much, the administration was really in doubt that anyone would want to sign up. They were like, “No, the guards here just want to do their job.”
ID: Or, “It’s not part of their job description, they could get in trouble with the unions.”
ME: We said, “Why don’t we ask them?” We sent an email out to all the guards and received responses saying, “Hey this is really fun, instead of sitting on my stool in the same room year after year, I’m going to have a different kind of contact with the audience, I’m not going to be invisible anymore.” It was great to have so many volunteers who really seemed up for being involved.

’12 Hours of White Paint/Powerless Structures’, Fig. 15, 1997

FK: When you have live people as part of a work – it almost relates to models in fashion – the viewer thinks of them differently, they almost don’t see them, they’re invisible in a sense. It must be fascinating to see the audience’s reaction.
ME: The fashion industry is also very classic, you still have that catwalk situation where the models walk down, make a turn, and walk back the way they came. But if you break that system, like some designers have at certain locations, you suddenly notice that the people wearing the clothes are real people. If you change who they are, maybe their body features or looks, then people start to question who these people are. When Yves Saint Laurent put a naked woman on the catwalk, you definitely started to notice the model. He was also among the first designers to put a Black woman on the runway.

FK: Prada Marfa [2005 – a permanent sculpture in Texas resembling a freestanding Prada store] is obviously a really big moment. I wondered how that happened logistically. How did that get started? How did you build it there, how did you get the planning permission, how did you decide on that location?
ID: We made a previous work called Opening soon/Powerless Structures, Fig. 242 [2001] at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York.
ME: They had a big window out to the street and we covered it with a white sheet and printed “Opening soon–PRADA” and everyone
believed it. So the gallery was not very happy, and at that time we didn’t have any permission to use Prada’s logo. They didn’t sue us, they like art. From that piece we got the idea – what if you take this luxury boutique and put it somewhere else, out of the context of a metropolitan setting, away from a posh shopping street, and place it in the middle of the desert where there is nothing? We thought maybe we could do it in Nevada because Prada Nevada sounded pretty good, but they were not so interested in it. We got to know an art organisation which was really fun and does great projects called Art Production Fund in New York. They had some connections to Marfa. And Marfa has the Donald Judd Foundation, so there was already a history of art connected to that desert town. We went there and met people, one of the ranchers gave us a little piece of land in the middle of nowhere outside a ghost town called Valentine about 40km from Marfa, and we erected the little Prada Marfa shop along Highway 90. Then we asked Prada, “Are you going to sue us if we do this?” And they said, “No.” Encouraged by their openness we then asked if they could sponsor the shoes and handbags in the shop since we were poor artists.
ID: We couldn’t afford it! [laughs]
ME: They said alright, and gave us a selection of the 2005 signature collection that actually happened to be in desert colours – faded dusty green, sandy and brown color tones. Then we made the shop. 2005 was at the beginning of Facebook and it was absolutely pre-Instagram, so there were no more than around 30 people at the opening and we thought of this piece as something quite hidden, an almost secret project, that only very few people would know about. Social media changed the whole perception of the artwork because people started to go there and Instagram, and since then it has become one of our most well-known works, even if it’s in the middle of nowhere.
ID: Especially after Beyoncé posed in front of it, and it started appearing on TV… it was sort of featured in Gossip Girl and 60 Minutes and lately on The Simpsons.

’12 Hours of White Paint/Powerless Structures’, Fig. 15, 1997

FK: Amazing.
ID: We love the piece, we went back for the first time in fourteen years last year and it was amazing to see it again, to stand in front of the work and see the landscape that hasn’t changed at all, whereas the world has changed. We have changed. It was really emotional somehow. The core idea remains, in the way it deals with land art and with a criticism of the luxury industry and consumer society – but it’s like the piece has completely taken on its own life now.

FK: When you talk about consumerism, the art world is very geared up to selling, with the fairs…
ID: We’re not against selling art [laughs] it keeps us going, it keeps the studio going. But of course we don’t want the commercial aspect to be the focus. One doesn’t start creating artwork to feed a market, you have to create the artworks that you believe in.
ME: The commercial hysteria around art got a reality check this year with the pandemic. Maybe it was good that we all had to slow down, pause for a bit, rethink what we actually are doing, and where we go from here.

Interview originally published in The HERO Winter Annual 2020.

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