elmgreen & dragset : german barn at singapore art biennale 2011
elmgreen & dragset : german barn at singapore art biennale 2011 elmgreen & dragset : german barn at singapore art biennale 2011
mar 16, 2011

elmgreen & dragset : german barn at singapore art biennale 2011

the german barn by elmgreen & dragset commissioned by the singapore art biennale 2011 image © designboom

sheltered inside the hanger of old kallang airport, the german barn, a day dream building folly of plenty of associations, is the latest work by artist duo elmgreen & dragset.

the unrealistic and impractical displacement of images, objects or actions also called ‘quixotic’ (term from the novel of don quixote) or ‘overidealism’ of extravagantly chivalrous action is a key device in contemporary art. michael elmgreen and ingar dragset are no strangers to this strategy. site specific art is here interpreted with a radical displacement.

image © designboom

an echo of the black-and-white striped mock-tudor architecture of colonial villas in singapore? it refers directly to the colonial and post colonial situation of culture in singapore, thus this project is site-specific, but what if the site (singapore) itself is not authentic? the artist barn is also a fake. a constructed social space animated by viewers mingling with local actors hired to mock agricultural work costumed in south german folk dress.

inside the barn image © designboom

for the artists, this theatrical ‘useless’ labour points to ‘the transformation of the body from a tool for creating value through manual labour to a marketing tool in the post-industrial era.’

lounging boys on hay image © designboom

image © designboom

the farmyard fantasy is also sexually loaded. a barn is outside the family home – a place for sheltering beasts but also not socially sanctioned sex. this aspect has never been lost on gay subcultures in which hardcore macho masculinity is often re(mis)played and co-opted as an act of empowerment.

image © designboom

the installation is an explicit revisiting of robert rauschenberg’s ‘combines’, monogram (1955-59), where the artist combined collages with assemblage of a wide range of objects taken from everyday life — a process that undermines both illusion and the idea that a work of art has a unitary meaning. it especially refers to the stuffed white mountain goat next to a rubber tyre.

side view image © designboom

close-up image © designboom

ingar dragset and the german barn image © designboom

ingar dragset portrait © designboom

the text of this article contains excerpts by dominic eichler (from the biennale exhibition catalogue). — the third edition of the singapore biennale (SB2011) opened its doors to the public on march 13th and will run until may 15th, 2011.  designboom visited the shows led by artistic director matthew ngui and curators russell storer and trevor smith. the SB2011 open house program is organized by the singapore art museum (SAM) of the national heritage board and supported by the national arts council, singapore. 63 artists from 30 countries are presenting 161 works across four exhibition venues – SAM and SAM at 8Q, the national museum of singapore, old kallang airport and marina bay.

with its focus on artistic processes, the third singapore biennale marks the highest proportion of artists to date who are presenting new site-specific commissions or premieres: 34 artists or 54 % of all participating artists. it also has the strongest asian and local representation to date, with more than 40% of the artists (27 out of 63) hailing from asia and nine singaporeans artists in all.

  • the singapore biennale was mindblowing for me as a first time visitor; this is one of the must-see exhibits.

    everlastingz says:
  • I think this could have been pushed a little farther. Four men, in creepy little outfits, in a fake barn … inside … reading books. It just doesn’t show any emotion! Except I am expecting them to get up and do some sort of interpretive dance.

    skibeth says:

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