press release

The exhibition This is the First Day of My Life by Elmgreen & Dragset is a comprehensive presentation of the artists’ works from 1997-2007. Since 1995 the artists have collaborated on a wide range of performances, interventions and installations. Elmgreen & Dragset have consistently played with and against the exhibition space throughout the vast series of works entitled Powerless Structures. This series challenged architectural, sexual and social structures combined with a critique of institutional spaces. Changing and altering spatial conditions has taken place both within the urban landscape (e.g. Dug Down Gallery/Powerless Structures, Fig. 45 and Cruising Pavilion/Powerless Structures, Fig. 55) as well as within art institutional architecture (Powerless Structures, Fig. 11, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art), or in more radical performative actions, such as when the artists – over a period of 3 months – reconstructed the entire interior design of Kunsthalle Zürich.

The title of Elmgreen & Dragset’s exhibition This is the First Day of My Life seems to address the question: What now? What will I choose? How will I deal with this first day? We never choose our first day, our day of birth; somebody else makes that choice for us. From day one, various factors influence our behavioural patterns: Who we are, what we become.

Time to choose. Which door will you open? Upon entering Malmö Konsthall, the spectator is confronted with a long blank white wall and a series of anonymous-looking doors. Some of the doors are dysfunctional and can’t be opened; others will lead the viewer through a complex environment of secret rooms configured in a labyrinthine system. Here the audience will find several new productions together with some of Elmgreen & Dragset’s more well known works such as Just a Single Wrong Move (shown at Tate Modern, 2004) or Queer Bar (Powerless Structures, Fig. 121). In this version of the latter work, the audience is invited to perform the role as bartender in a gay bar for a short while.

During the years Elmgreen & Dragset have staged themselves, actors, workers or friends in different performative acts, which have dealt with duration, process and the viewers’ perception of space. These performances have created a sense of endlessness and voyeurism, whether the artists have been knitting, painting or building a structure or taking it apart. Throughout their 12 years of collaboration Elmgreen & Dragset have created works and exhibitions where the performers and the audience are set up in a who’s watching who situation, which at times has left the spectator puzzled, in between, questioning if the exhibition was about to begin or just about to finish.

It’s all about accepting that nothing is for granted, daring to be confused and being open to new experiences. The work The Incidental Self, Fig. 3 consists of 1000 framed diary-like photographs. They are arranged in groups on white shelves, which are hung along a 30-meter-long corridor. The installation gives a new and more intimate dimension to the exhibition and to Elmgreen & Dragset’s working method. Childhood images are mixed with private snapshots of nightclubs, gay bars, ex-lovers and cityscapes from Europe, Asia and the Americas. Get lost in the arcades of passion!

In the exhibition This is the First Day of My Life go-go dancers, prison inmates, the bourgeois upper-class and club goers live door by door and have just left home to start a new day. Where did they all go? The exhibition gives no answers, it only poses more questions about all the tomorrows to come…this is the first day of our lives.

Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset have been collaborating since 1995 and live and work in Berlin.

This is the First Day of My Life
Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset