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First Major Solo Exhibition in Germany for Elmgreen & Dragset at ZKM Museum
Elmgreen & Dragset, Celebrity – The One & The Many. An exhibition at ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art. Exhibtion view © Elmgreen & Dragset, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010. Photo: ONUK.

KARLSRUHE.- Scandinavian artist duo Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset have been among the most innovative positions in the international scene for several years, investigating various behavioral and perception patterns as well as the parameters of exhibiting art through sculptures, installations, and performances. They have become known to a broader audience through spectacular projects, such as a reconstructed Prada boutique in the Texan desert, or the bottom of a mobile home breaking through the ground in the middle of a noble Milan shopping center. Their project “The Collectors” at the Venice Biennale was not only a great success with the audience in 2009, but was also celebrated by art critics throughout the world. ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art hosts their first major solo exhibition in Germany, through 27 March 2011: “Elmgreen & Dragset. Celebrity – The One & The Many.”

In the “Celebrity” exhibition, diverse facets of the socio-cultural climate are thematized. Within this artistic examination, staged are a series of intertwined narrations, which with diverse highlights attempt to steer the perspective on social, political, and no least, also artistic aspects.
 “Celebrity” directs focus, among other things, to the relationship between “The One & The Many,” that is, a prominent personality, an icon, an a-lister, and the mass of so-called “normal” people and illuminates how the lifestyles of the rich and famous are mediated to a general public through staged, artificial realities. As everyone knows, Distortions, rumors, gossip, and half-truths from the world of glamour play an important role in allowing either dream worlds or scandals to form. Against this backdrop, the installations in “Celebrity” also illuminate the mechanisms of medial seduction and contemporary myth production.

In both atria of the ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, two major installations developed especially for the Museum’s architecture were realized by the artists: a four-story concrete slab high rise in the foyer atrium presents an extremely modest dwelling. The building cannot be entered, but the numerous rooms can be looked into from outside and from the galleries of the atria. Diverse scenarios play out behind their windows, yet all share one aspect: the people inside yearn for the fame of our “casting society” (Bernhard Pörksen/Wolfgang Krischke). With this architectural, massive sculpture, a bit of social reality is displaced into the museum context.

The museum’s second atrium is dominated by a pompous but empty, seemingly classicist ballroom, which borders a second, fictive room in which a VIP party takes place behind closed doors. The events going on at the party can only be guessed at through the silhouettes on the frosted-glass door panes. Exhibition visitors are excluded from the real world of celebrity society and hear only the gossip and noise from the exclusive party. For outsiders, all of the visual elements, which play a role that should not be underestimated in the sphere of glamour, are reduced in a practically platonic way to a shadow theater. Opposite this staged event, on the other side of the hall, the son of the fictive celebrity host huddles lonely and abandoned on the hearth of the feudal dwelling: His formative experiences are loneliness and exclusion.

The exhibition “Celebrity – The One & The Many,” with its staged realities defines itself primarily as a commentary on the current phenomena of celebrity culture. At the center of current media attention is not the “traditional” star who has achieved status through achievement and charisma, but mainly, young people willing to thoughtlessly gamble away their dignity for attention on television, the Internet, or in blogs. This type of escapism can be found in previously unheard of dimensions, which the exhibition investigates, among other things. Exhibition beholders reflecting on their own position within this arrangement become ambivalent, performative elements in the installation. They observe, and in an expanded concept of sculpture also become part of the installation for the other, likewise observing beholders.

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