Currently on view at Galerie Perrotin is Past Tomorrow, Elmgreen & Dragset’s second installment of their ongoing tale focused on the life and loves of imagined architect Norman Swann. The project that, in its core, is an unrealized play by the Berlin-based Scandinavian duo, had its inception at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2013 exhibition, titled Tomorrow, turning the museum’s galleries into Mr. Swann’s residence. The narrative resumes as their protagonist migrates to a studio apartment in New York’s Upper East Side neighborhood, after he consumes his entire family inheritance and vacates his London house in South Kensington.
Giving an impression that Swann — a melancholic, striving architect in his seventies — has just left his apartment, the installation by these two enfants terribles of the art world encourages a participatory experience to explore given details about the character. A jacket randomly placed on a couch, or a drafting table full of incomplete architectural outlines substitute for their missing owner. Bright white pillows with intricate embroideries are positioned on a large size bed, which holds a gold-plated vulture nestling one of the wooden bedposts. With its imposing posture and piercing stare, the avian sculpture, entitled The Critic, is only one of few recurring icons in the duo’s oeuvre.
A sculpture of two kissing male heads in disguise under wrapping white sheets, is not only a direct homage to Magritte’s The Lovers, which uses the same imagery for a heterosexual couple, but also a work the duo presented before. Mr. Swann‘s bookshelf, holding a generous collection of examples from Western canon, from Joyce to Proust (whose famous character Charles Swann) is Norman’s namesake, reveals further details about his character in terms of his literary taste and world-view, as do his small collection of utopian architectural tomes from the 1970’s.
Throughout the show, objects with their mute, yet vivid language narrate the story of the mysterious Mr Swann, a perfect agent of vanishing traditions and norms of the Old Continent, and a silent witness of decades full of upheavals. The emergence of AIDS crisis in the 80’s is one of those outbreaks, and one which Swann, who is HIV positive, experienced firsthand. A box of Truvada, barely visible through a half open drawer next to his bed, unveils the years-long struggles and experiences in one man’s life, just like every other object waiting to be explored in Mr Swann’s home.
Elmgreen & Dragset: Past Tomorrow Is On View at Galerie Perrotin Through May 23, 2015.
*All images are by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of the artists and Galerie Perrotin.
— O.C. Yerebakan
Galerie Perrotin [Exhibition Page]