"We like openness in our work, there should always be room for the audience to make their own interpretation. Everyone has their own memories, their own perception of what they know. We ourselves are really good at misreading philosophy and a lot of good things come out of it. For example, our Powerless Structures were inspired by Michel Foucault, the French philosopher, who said it's absolutely wrong to speak about power structures because the structures themselves can’t impose any power in society; it's only when we human beings agree upon these structures that they do, therefore they shouldn’t be called power structures. It wasn’t exactly what he meant, but Powerless Structures, a full series of works over years, came out of it, the latest of which is Powerless Structure 101 in Trafalgar Square.
"We ourselves are really good at misreading philosophy and a lot of good things come out of it."
People who pass through Trafalgar Square haven’t asked for an art experience. It is a different location to showing something in a museum where people are prepared to get a surprise. They might have come from a really shit work day or they might be depressed, so I think there is a limit as to how much you can shock them. You need to do something that is working with complexity, but also in a way you need to go a bit softer. In that way, I think the work works because people aren’t scared of it – they just photograph themselves in front of it because they think it’s pretty. You don’t need to have an art education in order to perceive the work in an immediate way, but then, of course, there are many more layers for those who have a special interest."
For the latest in Louis Vuitton's renowned series of Art Talks, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset took the chairs opposite interviewer Tim Marlow amid the recreated hayloft that forms part of their latest show Harvest. The Scandanavian artists, who first met in 1995, moved to Berlin together in 1997 and have been creating work as a duo ever since: ranging from a Modernist Kunsthalle for the 2001 Istanbul Biennale, the German government's 2008 commission for a tribute to the gay victims of the Nazi regime, and, most recently, Powerless Structure 101, the current occupant of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.
For Harvest, they have taken over both floors of the Victoria Miro Gallery in London, with upstairs' rural idyll juxtaposed with the deceptive simplicity of a series of framed white boxes in the lower space – wall paint samples from various museums. And in collaboration with Louis Vuitton, the duo have also created an installation in Louis Vuitton's New Bond Street Maison, featuring a new work titled Omnes Una Manet Nox (One night awaits us all), which encourages the employees of Louis Vuitton to become integral to the artwork by taking a nap in an oversized fairytale bed, overseen by a fierce golden vulture.
Louis Vuitton host a Bedtime Story Reading by Jade Parfitt among Elmgreen & Dragset's works at their flagship New Bond Street store at 4pm on Friday 12 October. The instore exhibition Omnes Una Manet Nox runs until December 1. Harvest is at Victoria Miro Gallery until November 10.
Text by Tish Wrigley