To sum it up in a phrase, there’s an international airport inside an art museum. This is the work of Elmgreen & Dragset, who examined the site first before designing an installation that would befit the space. Arrive a little before 2pm and you can hop on a flight to LA, or discover El Dorado—the lost city of gold that only endures in the minds of unsuccessful conquerors. Well, at least that is what’s announced on the “Departures (2015)” board. Before scrambling for the gate, an airport attendant hands you a free, blank boarding pass to stamp your name onto, four letters at a time with plenty of excess ink to stain your fingers with. “Such horrible customer service,” is what comes to your mind, until you find a teddy bear missing an ear lying inside a trolley basket. Check-in only gets lonelier from here on out.
Committing to the role of a passenger, the installed pieces spark a desire to touch and fiddle around with the objects, but this type of interaction is not allowed. The duo’s new fragrance is advertised on a large screen in front of you, but it can only be viewed and not purchased at the art shop, now “duty free store” downstairs. The “White Maid (2014)” attends to the first class lounge, but, alas, she is locked up with chains and a padlock. Exhausted from feeling helpless, you move onwards and a sofa comes into view, but sinking into the fabric seats, the guards tell you to get off. Another work reads, “This Place Can’t Be Yours”, and your frustration doubles with this ugly truth. The airport doesn’t belong to a singular entity, and PLATEAU isn’t a real airport. So there really is no need to feel anxious when you hear an announcement that a lost child is looking for his or her parents. With more past works installed than new, “Aéroport Mille Plateaux” may feel like a dirty trick or a recycling job gone wrong. But Elmgreen & Dragset has always considered their pieces as mere ingredients to recontextualize a space, presenting unique narratives with each delivery. The phone booth you noticed coming in is another oldie from 2007, but make sure to pick up the receiver, as there’s a message for you in Korean spoken by one of the artists. The whole experience will both warmly embrace and hurt you at the same time—especially if you feel like a lonely tourist when you exit.