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useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan

Elmgreen & Dragset at Fondazione Prada

 

Elmgreen & Dragset explore the present condition of the body in the post-industrial age at Fondazione Prada‘s Milan venue. On view until August 22, 2022, ‘Useless Bodies?’ brings together a wide selection of the artist duo‘s sculptural and performative works in one of the foundation’s most ambitious thematic investigations to date. Spanning more than 3,000 sqm, the exhibition unfolds in four gallery spaces and the courtyard, which have been transformed into a series of different universes, each with its own atmosphere, theme, and aesthetic. Together, the spaces compose an immersive investigation of our physical presence in an increasingly digitized world, where the body is losing its centrality or is even completely superfluous.

 

our bodies are no longer the main agents of our existence,’ state Elmgreen & Dragset. ‘They don’t generate value in our societies’ advanced production methods as they did in the industrial era. One could claim our physical selves have even become more of an obstacle than an advantage. In the 19th century, the body was the producer of daily goods, whereas, in the 20th century, the body’s role became more that of the consumer. Twenty years into the 21st century the status of the body is now that of the product – with our data gathered and sold by Big Tech. With the publicly available knowledge surrounding the harvesting of data from tech companies being so inane, and the rapidly accelerating rate at which such companies are expanding into every aspect of our lives, it does sometimes feel a little scary to think about our bodies’ future role.’

 

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milanExhibition views of ‘Useless Bodies?’ by Elmgreen & Dragset Fondazione Prada, Milan | Photo: Andrea Rossetti, Courtesy: Fondazione Prada, unless stated otherwise
From left to right: Luigi Secchi, Al lido, post 1893 | Elmgreen & Dragset, Pregnant White Maid, 2017 | Elmgreen & Dragset, Invisible, 2017 | Elmgreen & Dragset, He (Silver), 2013
Header image: Elmgreen & Dragset, What’s Left?, 2021

 

 

THE IMMERSIVE INSTALLATIONS OF ‘USELESS BODIES?’

 

Elmgreen & Dragset‘s ‘Useless Bodies?’ exhibition unfolds as a path that starts from Fondazione Prada‘s Podium, to the Nord gallery, to the Cisterna and, finally, to the outdoor spaces. On the ground floor of the Podium, the duo’s works are exhibited alongside classical and neoclassical sculptures. This juxtaposition, inspired by Fondazione Prada’s inaugural exhibition ‘Serial Classic’, shows both similarities and differences in how artists have mediated the male body through sculptural practices spanning centuries. 

 

The second floor of the Podium is transformed into a vast, abandoned office landscape that explores the body’s changed role in the context of labor. The immersive installation comprises a repetitive pattern of seemingly endless rows of workstations that evoke dystopian movie sets from films such as Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967) and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985).

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
From left to right: Elmgreen & Dragset, Watching, 2021 | Elmgreen & Dragset, For today I am a child, 2016

 

In the foundation’s Nord gallery, visitors encounter a futuristic vision of a domestic setting that fuses together elements of a bunker, a spaceship, and a science lab. This installation questions the way we exist in our homes today, especially now that we share them with technology to such a high degree. The audience is free to wander the space and explore the clinically designed objects, where they find a human body set halfway inside a mortuary refrigerator, and the only moving presence is that of a robotic dog. 

 

The fourth interior set up takes place in the Cisterna, where Elmgreen & Dragset look into how the wellness, leisure, and health industries pressure us to conform to new body ideals. The building’s three rooms are turned into a forsaken spa-like environment that includes an abandoned swimming pool and a locker room. ‘As our bodies are being rendered useless by technological innovations, the ever-expanding wellness, leisure, and health sectors are offering countless new ways to “solve the problem of the imperfect body”,’ reads the exhibition text. In the central room, a new work titled ‘What’s Left?’ explores the role of the body as a political actor or instrument of social change.

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
From left to right: Antinoo Farnese, II secolo | Elmgreen & Dragset Flo, 2020 | Luigi Secchi, Al lido, post 1893 | Bertel Thorvaldsen, Hyrdedreng, 1822-1825 [Pastore]

 

 

Finally, the outdoor spaces of Fondazione Prada host a number of sculptures that look into how our bodies are physically regulated in the public sphere. By slightly altering familiar, everyday objects, these works y encourage a re-evaluation of the ordinary and highlight how we negotiate the control mechanisms embedded in public spaces. The exhibition is accompanied by a 500-page publication titled ‘Useless Bodies?’, which is conceived as a thematic extension of the show, with multiple perspectives from over 35 authors —philosophers, artists, writers, scientists, and thinkers— addressing our changing perceptions of the body and its status today.

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
Image © designboom

useless-bodies-elmgreen-dragset-exhibition-fondazione-prada-designboom-laarge

From left to right: Corridore, I secolo a.C. | Elmgreen & Dragset, The Painter, Fig. 2, 2021 | Gladiatore Farnese, copia romana del 190-199, originale greco 460 a.C. ca. | Elmgreen & Dragset, Pregnant White Maid, 2017 | Atleta con strigile, 1938

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
Image © designboom

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
Elmgreen & Dragset Garden of Eden, 2022

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
From left to right: Elmgreen & Dragset, Doubt, 2019 | Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale. La fine di Dio, 1963

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
From left to right: Elmgreen & Dragset, Circulation, 2019 | Elmgreen & Dragset, Untitled, 2011 | Elmgreen & Dragset, Pollarded Tree, 2022

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
Elmgreen & Dragset, Untitled, 2011, Steel, wood, silicone, fabric, 343 x 457 x 218 cm, Courtesy: Perrotin, Photo by: Guillaume Ziccarelli

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
Image © designboom

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
From top to bottom, from left to right: Nancy Grossmann, Black, 1973–1974 | Elmgreen & Dragset, The Bed, 2019 | Elmgreen & Dragset, Looking Back, 2022 | Elmgreen & Dragset, Untitled (After The Lovers), 2015

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
In the foreground: Elmgreen & Dragset, Piscina di Largo Isarco, 2021 | In the background, from left to right: Elmgreen & Dragset, Too Heavy, 2017 | Elmgreen & Dragset, I must make amends, Fig. 2 , 2019

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In the foreground: Elmgreen & Dragset, Piscina di Largo Isarco, 2021 | In the background, from left to right: Elmgreen & Dragset, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, 2021 | Elmgreen & Dragset, Free Play, 2018

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
Image © designboom

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
From left to right: Elmgreen & Dragset, Marriage, 2004 | Elmgreen & Dragset, The Touch, 2011

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
Elmgreen & Dragset at Fondazione Prada | Photo by Andrea Rossetti

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
Elmgreen & Dragset, What’s Left?, 2021

useless bodies? elmgreen & dragset exhibition opens at fondazione prada in milan
Elmgreen & Dragset, What’s Left?, 2021

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Elmgreen & Dragset, Statue of Liberty, Fig. 2, 2018-2021
Elmgreen & Dragset, Statue of Liberty, Fig. 2, 2018-2021
Elmgreen & Dragset, The Outsiders, 2020
Elmgreen & Dragset, The Outsiders, 2020
Elmgreen & Dragset, The Outsiders (installation view, Unlimited, Art Basel, Basel, 2021), 2020, Mercedes W123, silicone, clothing, packed artworks, 140 x 455 x 194 cm, Courtesy: Pace Gallery, New York, Photo by: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
Elmgreen & Dragset, The Outsiders (installation view, Unlimited, Art Basel, Basel, 2021), 2020, Mercedes W123, silicone, clothing, packed artworks, 140 x 455 x 194 cm, Courtesy: Pace Gallery, New York, Photo by: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
Image © designboom
Image © designboom
Elmgreen & Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig. 117, 2001
Elmgreen & Dragset, Powerless Structures, Fig. 117, 2001

project info:

 

Name: Useless Bodies?

Artist: Elmgreen & Dragset

Location: Fondazione Prada

Duration: March 31 – August 22, 2022

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