Our physical presence has lost relevance in the post-industrial era, to the point of becoming redundant. Useless bodies? That’s possible.
Exhibition views of “Useless Bodies?” by Elmgreen & Dragset Fondazione Prada, Milan. In the picture, Elmgreen & Dragset's What’s Left?, 2021
Prada, under Miuccia Prada’s creative direction, seems to agree. From March 31, the Scandinavian, Berlin-based artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset’s “Useless Bodies?” exhibition has been open to the public at the brand’s foundation, Fondazione Prada.
Elmgreen & Dragset’s “Useless Bodies?” exhibition at Fondazione Prada. From left to right, Elmgreen & Dragset’s Watching, 2021 and For today I am a child, 2016
The new Elmgreen & Dragset’s exhibition at Fondazione Prada is a five-room invitation to consider the mundane in a world where our bodies are rather useless
Aiming to showcase an analysis of the present condition of the human body in a world where its role is the same as a product’s – with our data gathered and sold by Big Tech – here artworks by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset span more than 3,000 square metres. The pieces blend in with the exhibition space architecture to underline the message.
Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset at Fondazione Prada
One of the most prominent thematic investigations ever conducted by Fondazione Prada – the exhibition was conceived for the four-gallery space and the courtyard of its Milan venue.
It all gets shifted, from interpersonal relationships to workplace environments and how we record information. The artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset take us through barren spas, uncomfortable houses, abandoned changing rooms, and worthless daily goods, inviting viewers to consider the mundane.
Garden of Eden, 2022 by Elmgreen & Dragset at Fondazione Prada.
The exhibition “Useless Bodies?” takes place in five rooms: the Podium’s ground and first floor, North Gallery, Cistern and Fondazione’s external spaces. Each of these situations has instances of both presence and absence.
Elmgreen & Dragset's The Outsiders (installation view, Unlimited, Art Basel, Basel, 2021) 2020. Mercedes W123, silicone, clothing, packed artworks (Courtesy: Pace Gallery, New York; Photo by: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano)
ATMs, coolers, seats, and other signifiers of human transit are imbued with their most primordial meaning: to be a creation of human hands and senses, designed to be used by other human hands and senses. It challenges us to assess the lives of our homes.
Exhibition views of “Useless Bodies?” by Elmgreen & Dragset at Fondazione Prada. In the foreground, Elmgreen & Dragset's Piscina di Largo Isarco, 2021. In the background, from left to right, Elmgreen & Dragset's A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, 2021 and Free Play, 2018
From a moving robotic dog to neoclassical and contemporary references: what’s hot at the foundation
An unexpected visitor, a small investigator, explores the public space, free to construct stories and gather evidence in an alienating environment where the only living presence is a moving mechanical dog.
From left to right, Elmgreen & Dragset's Circulation, 2019; Untitled, 2011; Pollarded Tree, 2022
The North Galley turned out to be a house designed to be unpleasant, hostile and falsely welcoming. There’s a robot dog and a cold, distant fire as a pitiful attempt to elicit human emotions.
Some details indicate we are not on Earth, and what we feel as unpleasantly cold is a futile attempt to evoke human warmth. The end of this sci-fi scene reveals a distressing discovery: a mortuary cell with a corpse inside. A disturbing feature that nearly blends in with the rest of the spaceship’s style.
On the Podium’s ground floor, the exaltation of the human figure takes centre stage, mixing ancient, neoclassical and contemporary references.
From left to right, Elmgreen & Dragset's Flo, 2020; Luigi Secchi's Al lido, post 1893; Bertel Thorvaldsen's Hyrdedreng , 1822-1825 [Pastore / Shephered boy]; Elmgreen & Dragset's Pregnant White Maid, 2017; Elmgreen & Dragset's Invisible, 2017; Elmgreen & Dragset's He (Silver), 2013; Atleta con strigile, 1938; Elmgreen & Dragset's Dirty Socks, 2019; Corridore, 1st century BCE
The dialogue between ancient and contemporary is not trivialised by their physical presence in the same room; instead, it becomes a set of intuitions and free references for the viewer.
Elmgreen & Dragset's This is How We Play Together, 2021 at Fondazione Prada
One sculpture stood out – a young boy wearing virtual reality glasses waving his arm in the air as he explores the imaginary world he alone can see. This reminds me of an artist I follow on Instgram, @jago.artist – a modern sculptor who uses expressive and current references on neoclassical white marble.
“Exhibitions are never an answer. It’s always a question – we are not here for simple answers,” Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset told A magazine
Thus, Elmgreen and Dragset’s bodies cease to be active subjects in our existence and transcend many parts of their sculptural and performative processes, connecting to essential issues such as intimacy, development and the many ways of living in the public dimension.
From left to right, Elmgreen & Dragset's Marriage, 2004 and The Touch, 2011 on display at Fondazione Prada
Visiting “Useless Bodies?”, people will discover a succession of immersive installations that offer a range of universes, themes, and atmospheres following a journey that begins on the two levels of the Podium and continues down the North gallery and into the Cistern.
Exhibition views of “Useless Bodies?” by Elmgreen & Dragset at Fondazione Prada, Milan
Classical and neoclassical sculptures interact with works by Elmgreen and Dragset to create a cosmos in which overlapping periods and styles emphasise similarities and distinctions.
Student in the Master’s program in Fashion Promotion, Communication and New Media, Milan
Copyright for all the images: photo Andrea Rossetti, courtesy Fondazione Prada (unless otherwise specified)