A Greater Perspective

bronze, steel, black patina, wax 145 ¾ x 147 ½ x 72 ¾ inches 12 ¼ x 12 ½ x 6 feet 
Courtesy the artists and Galerie Perrotin, New York 

Michael Elmgreen was born in 1961 in Copenhagen, Denmark; Ingar Dragset was born in 1969 in Trondheim, Norway. The artists live and work in Berlin.

Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset have been working together since 1995, integrating art, architecture, installation, public art and performance in tragic-comic ways. They create situations of farcical futility, whose light-hearted images—empty sinks, stranded star fish, refuse from rave night, an empty public pool—carry darker meanings that force us to confront the absurdity and beauty of everyday life.

Their works are described as cheeky and irreverent, poking at the institutions that regulate our lives. By virtually kidnapping objects and placing them in unexpected situations, the artists question how culture shapes and frames our environment.

Elmgreen & Dragset used the phrase “powerless structures” in their 2012 commission for the Fourth Plinth project in London’s Trafalgar Square, and this phrase captures the regal uselessness of their giant bronze telescope A Greater Perspective, commission for the High Line in New York. The telescope is not accessible given its height, and anyway, it is solid bronze, meaning there is no vista to be enjoyed.

The artists’ use this old-fashioned, romantic tool of discovery to suggest the perspective of the great explorers who shape history is too narrow to accommodate the wide world around us. For Sculpture Milwaukee, A Greater Perspective is sited on the edge of Wisconsin Avenue, overlooking the lake. No telescope could reveal the traces that successive generations of visitors left on our shore. The sculpture feels lonely, bereft of its’ purpose, a lingering monument to clouded vision, a call to knowing our own past.