The exhibition “The One & The Many” by Elmgreen & Dragset is a site-specific project for the Submarine Wharf. The artists have transformed the enormous space into a section of an urban landscape, affording the viewer a glimpse into the lives of the fictional characters, who are the inhabitants in this universe in microcosm.
(excerpt from the press release by Museum Boijmans van Beuningen)
The exhibition is the last part of a trilogy of installations, from which the first 2 were “The Welfare Show”, dealing with the decline of the welfare state and “The Collectors”, allowing the spectator to peep into a domestic settings of wealthy collectors couple (show at last Venice Biennale). “The One & The Many” takes as its subject lives of common people (“the many”) and their role in nowadays’ society. Apart from a social commentary, the installation doesn’t lack the most important ingredients of the Scandinavian artistic duo: wit and subversive humor. These are present in numerous details, whether in the interior settings of the constructed high-rise building, the actors with assigned roles and style or objects spread around the site.
When we first entered the space through a long metal tunnel, it was completely crowded, with everyone fitting immediately into the settings as if they always belonged there. People queued to take ride on the ferris wheel, sat down on benches, hanged around the skeleton of the white limousine and chatted with the mechanics fixing it, (taking it apart?) or observed the activities from a built-in gazebo. The constructed became real for a while. Later on, when the space got empty, the atmosphere changed. All of a sudden the artificial character of the settings and the props became much more obvious, and instead of the cheerful ambiance, one felt more of an eerie sensation.
We took many pictures of both scenarios, which you can see on our Flickr. The installation is certainly worth a visit, both for its impressive visual qualities and as a final part of the conceptual trilogy, dealing with recent changes in the Western cultural climate.