Elmgreen & Dragset interview: 'Every show is about our own neuroses'

All is not what it seems this week at the V&A, as we discover from Scandinavian duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset

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  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

  • © Rob Greig

© Rob Greig


With their immersive installations that transform familiar situations into unsettling scenarios, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have great fun challenging what we assume to be true. You’ll know them for their ginormous sculpture of a boy on a rocking horse, which graced the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square earlier this year. But they’ve also designed the home of a dead art collector (at the 2009 Venice Biennale) and built a locked-up Prada store in a remote part of Texas.

Their latest creation is the luxurious home of an elderly architect, Norman Swann – a fictional character who never quite lived up to his potential. The duo have converted the V&A’s once run-down Textile Galleries into five rooms which ooze character and opulence. They’ve filled them with items from the V&A collection, sourced pieces from markets and included elements from previous projects, like a cracked dining table. The result is a strange, posh home in which you’re invited to snoop around, aided by a script devised by the artists, and draw your own conclusions.

© Rob Greig


What inspired you to create Norman Swann’s apartment?
Michael ‘The space. Because these galleries had been closed for eight years, they looked quite scruffy and we imagined that someone had been living here all this time, squatting or something.’
Ingar ‘You’ll notice that we’ve kept the water damage and dirt in the corners, all the things you’re not suppose to see.’

Why did you decide to make Norman a failed architect?
Michael ‘Architects build our cities, they control how we live. They direct our everyday routine, so it’s quite interesting to describe the life of someone who failed to do that.’
Ingar ‘Norman is weighed down by secrets and lies. Basically, you could say they’ve ruined his life.’

You’ve created a script for visitors. Can you dip in and out of the story or do you need to read all of it?

Ingar ‘If you want, you can make up your own story from what you find – like the unpaid bills.’

© Rob Greig


You’re encouraged to interact with the artworks, which is unusual in a museum…
Michael ‘I find it a big turn-off when there are small labels and alarms all over the place. Most of these objects were never designed to be in a museum, so it’s more true to their character to show them in this way.’

What’s with all the animal motifs?

Michael ‘There are horses. The British love their horses, dont they? Then we have two vultures. We always include a vulture in our shows. We call it “the critic” – he’s giving us the worst appraisal so we don’t get sad if we get a bad review.’

Is the exhibition really about your own anxieties, then?
Ingar ‘The characters we create are always partly representations of ourselves. Every show is about our own affairs and our own neuroses.’

See the exhibition

Exclusive Elmgreen and Dragset video interview

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We bed the Scandinavian duo ahead of their new V&A exhibition and get an exclusive peek inside the home of their latest creation, Norman Swann, an elusive architect


Watch our exclusive video interview with Elmgreen & Dragset


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Watch our Elgreen & Dragset video interview

We bed the Scandinavian duo ahead of their new V&A exhibition and get an exclusive peek inside the home of their latest creation, Norman Swann, an elusive architect
Watch the video

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