elmgreen & dragset transforms whitechapel gallery into an abandoned public swimming pool

elmgreen & dragset transforms whitechapel gallery into an abandoned public swimming pool

header image: installation view, courtesy whitechapel gallery, photo by jack hems



elmgreen & dragset has transformed the ground floor level of the whitechapel gallery into a vast, eerily abandoned public swimming pool. part of ‘this is how we bite our tongue’, a major survey exhibition of the duo’s work opening 27 september, the large-scale, site-specific installation is created as a commentary on the gentrification of london’s east end and the continuous loss of public spaces.

elmgreen & dragset transform whitechapel gallery into an abandoned public swimming pool designboominstallation view, courtesy whitechapel gallery



elmgreen & dragset have accompanied the whitechapel pool with a fictional narrative that tells the tale of its rise and fall, from its philanthropic founding in 1901 to its rise as a famed public amenity and its politically sanctioned and commercially driven decline. empty of water and with its surfaces deteriorating, the swimming pool points to a loss of faith in public space in an era of austerity. ‘east london saw intense gentrification in the last ten years,’ explains michael elmgreen and ingar dragset, ‘bars where artists used to meet closed, artists’ studios were turned into luxury loft apartments. at the same time poorer boroughs experienced the effect of austerity politics. our derelict swimming pool relates to this metamorphosis of local communities. it is also a sentimental image of painful transitions in general – the shift of values – and how it can be difficult as a human being and as a citizen to adjust to such challenges,’ concludes the berlin-based duo.



upon entering the whitechapel gallery‘s ground floor level, visitors encounter assistants dressed as security guards, patrolling the space in padded jackets with jangling keys. ‘in the whitechapel pool elmgreen & dragset express nostalgia for the loss of civic spaces, demonstrating how individuals are impacted by government policies,’ notes exhibition curator laura smith.

elmgreen & dragset transforms whitechapel gallery into an abandoned public swimming poolinstallation view, courtesy whitechapel gallery



additional works of the artists are presented within the swimming pool, such as ‘some stayed on while others left’ (2018), a fallen statue of a headless male body evoking a classical sculpture and a time with different ideals which is placed on one edge of he pool. nearby is ‘gay marriage’ (2010), a work that consists of two urinals with their plumbing tangled and connected and ‘too heavy’ (2017), a huge aluminum rock weighing down a trampoline.


‘elmgreen & dragset: this is how we bite our tongue’ is on at the whitechapel gallery from 27 september 2018 to 13 january 2019.
the exhibition is curated by laura smith, curator at the whitechapel gallery with habda rashid, assistant curator at the whitechapel gallery. it is accompanied by a fully-illustrated publication including an interview between iwona blazwick, director, whitechapel gallery and elmgreen & dragset as well as contributions from ann lui, assistant professor, school of the art institute of chicago; minna moore ede, associate curator, national gallery, london; laura smith, curator, whitechapel gallery; and habda rashid, assistant curator, whitechapel gallery. the exhibition is supported by philips.

installation view, courtesy whitechapel gallery

installation view, courtesy whitechapel gallery

capitalism will collapse from within, 2003, canvas, paint, stainless steel safe door, combination lock, painting: 120 x 200 cm, safe: 90x90cm, courtesy of the artists, photo by oren slor

gay marriage,
2010, porcelaim urinals, taps, stainless steel tubing, 110 x 43 x 123 cm, courtesy of galerie gerhardsen gerner, photo by matthias kolb

too heavy, 2017, rock: aluminium cast, lacquer paint, trampoline: aluminium cast, steel, fabric rock: 170 x 170 cm, courtesy of könig gallery, photo by roman maerz

modern moses, 2006, carrycot, bedding, wax figure, baby clothes, stainless, steel cash machine, carrycot: 16 x 71 x 37 cm, cash machine: 96.5 x 63.8 x 43.5 cm, courtesy of the artists, photo by eric gregory powell

installation view, courtesy whitechapel gallery

installation view, courtesy whitechapel gallery

installation view, courtesy whitechapel gallery


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