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PHI Artistes Collectionpermanente Vivien Gaumand Elmgreen Dragset Untitled After The Lovers

Elmgreen & Dragset

Untitled (After The Lovers) - 2015

Zellan Vosschemie (porcelaine plaster) with white super matte lacquer finish, stainless steel.
50 × 50 × 35 cm
Collection of Phoebe Greenberg

Photo: Vivien Gaumand

Vincent Bonin on Elmgreen & Dragset

The motif of the veiled heads from Les amants II by René Magritte (1928) is cited in whole by Elmgreen & Dragset in their 2015 sculpture Untitled (after The Lovers). However, by giving a third dimension to the painting, the artists have removed certain details, such as the clothing of the two protagonists. Therefore, it is no longer possible to read gender, as was the case in Magritte’s depiction of the figures. A second reference, the work Untitled (Perfect Lovers) by Félix Gonzáles-Torres from 1991, can be read obliquely in the title of Untitled (after The Lovers). In his installation, Gonzáles-Torres had placed two clocks side by side, the movement of one of which was slightly out of phase. The pairing was an allusion to the parallel but non-synchronized duration of his life alongside that of his lover Ross Laycock in the cast shadow of AIDS. Since 1995, Elmgreen & Dragset have conceived a series of installations and architectural interventions, which, like Gonzáles-Torres’s clocks juxtaposition, are composed of identical objects or mirroring support structures to put to the test the “couple form” of heterosexual social reproduction. Along the way, the artists offered tongue-in-cheeky representations of their collaborations and amorous relationship (they are no longer together today, but still work as a duo). Untitled (after The Lovers) could also refer to cultural contexts in which homosexuality was, or is still, repressed. The sculpture, thus, becomes a hollowed-out counterpart to the Memorial to the Persecuted Homosexuals Under National Socialism that Elmgreen & Dragset conceived in 2008, in Berlin. The concrete monolith is doubling as a viewing booth to screen short films, amongst them “Kiss video,” (2018) by Yael Bartana showing in a panoramic shot alternatively two men and two women kissing. As a backdrop behind the models, one could see a sequence of documents sourced from different periods of the struggles of 2SLGBTQIA+ people. Since 2015, Untitled (The Lovers) has been remade in several iterations (according to various dimensions, with, then without a base), and, each time, the new context of presentation has influenced the way it could be read. In 2019, Elmgreen & Dragset updated the work under the title Same Love. In an Instagram post from March 21, 2020, showing an image of the sculpture, they evoke the beginning of a health crisis - still ongoing today - which made the simple act of sharing air a risk of mutual contamination. Untitled (The Lovers) reappears in 2022 in the Useless Bodies exhibition at the Prada Foundation, in Milan. Elmgreen and Dragset address this time, among the phenomena of cancelling flesh in late capitalism, the inability to return to the norms and social ties that existed before the pandemic. Following all these instantiations, the floating allegory of Untitled (The Lovers) would therefore designate, on the one hand, the state of relationships reduced to a series of transactions, and, on the other hand, the utopias of circulation of queer desire beyond the traps of visibility.

About the Artist

Elmgreen & Dragset is a nordic artist duo consisting of Michael Elmgreen (b. 1961 Copenhagen, Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (b. 1969, Trondheim, Norway) who live and work in Berlin, Germany and have worked as a duo since 1995. The two met in Copenhagen while Elmgreen was writing and performing poetry, and Dragset studying theatre. Elmgreen & Dragset create humourous and sometimes disturbing sculpture, architecture, performance and installation. They play with normal modes of displaying art, the contextualization and juxtaposition of objects to create surreal reimaginings of objects’s functions and social location.

Figure–Ground

Elmgreen & Dragset's Untitled (After the Lovers) is currently on view in Figure–Ground, a series bringing together several works from PHI's art collection that explore the figure and the complex and intimate correlation it establishes with its background.

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