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A little Too Late, exhibition review from London

Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset at Victoria Miro Gallery, London “TOO LATE” exhibition.

A little too late

Only over 18s allowed in says the silver sign on the door. I was hoping that no-one was going to ask for some ID once I entered because I had left my passport at home, and have no alternative form of official ID that proves my age and indeed, who I am. I wasn’t exactly aware of what I was going to be seeing at this exhibition. I knew that it was supposedly a gallery.

But on the outside there was some neon sign that flashes in an aesthetic fashion to symbolically tell us that this place could be in disarray, or somewhat seedy. When I enter, I’m not entering a casual gallery setting. In fact, it looks like I have just entered a night club typically found in the depths of a city. The difference being, there is no one around. It’s just me, and the people who accompanied me.
The room is big, painted black and dark. Bottles are smashed in areas on the floor. I am almost reminded of my first and second year of art school, both the house parties and students studios who try and copy the capitalistic aesthetics of their contemporaries such as Hirst and Emin.
The coat-check room is merely lit by a quiet red glow, and I feel like at any moment I could be sexually harassed or robbed anonymously in the darkness. Leaving the cloakroom with my anxiety, we are announced to gently huge pictures of gay men that you have to stand in a difficult way so the light reflects the image. We might be going out, but perhaps this club is all about “coming out”?
In the corner a disgusting fag burnt dirty sofa ligers and the last balloon rolls around the space on its own. Loneliness tinges the air. On the side of the room are rows of ashtrays that house lots of old, really stale fag ends. And to restate once again, there is no one else about. The last slow, melancholy electro song drowns on repeat with a sad slow light projector.
I wonder out of the dance room into some toilets that managed to capture the hideous smell of bar bathrooms. Poppers and cheap bathroom air freshener aromas hang around the space. Behind one door, we see the feet of two people getting busy, and homosexually charged graffiti cover the doors.
I leave, and return to the dancefloor to notice another floor above me. The ceiling is mirrored and I see my own reflection but also the reflection of someone upstairs next to what I can only believe is the bar. I find the stairs that have more photo’s, this time clearer – of gay men line the staircase. When I arrive at the door, the door is locked. It is a VIP room. I am denied access to a world beyond. Alone and somewhat rejected I stand at the foot of the stairs unknowing what to do next. Do I leave? Do I try again, do I stand around and wait for something else to happen, like perhaps a different song will play?
This type of exhibition is nothing new. It’s not particularly reflective of anything risk taking in architectural art. And it doesn’t necessarily flag up any new political or socially engaged issues. It hasn’t pronounced to us what we already know nor has it taught us anything new. ‘Too Late’ is exactly what it is.
Elmgreen & Dragset are a collaborative duo that speak volumes upon the structures, both architecturally and existentially to the operations and spaces within galleries and art institutions.
They typically deconstruction the elements of a space by changing it’s relation to a viewer whether that is by questioning is social-political spheres or having banal directives that depressingly flank your guilt and lifestyle.
In a time where events are only attended because they were advertised on Facebook, where myspace rocked the music industry and Youtube proved hotter than TV, where is classed as the bestest place to get a date and shops close down to have an online alternative all prove that our social interactions are failing and becoming somewhat anti-social in its ideology. University degrees can be obtained via the internet too, whilst some galleries offer youtube interviews, discussion and virtual tours of and about their exhibitions. And this is what Too Late is all about. How our social relationships outside of the hyperreal internet sphere have started become awkward and none-existent.
They mix and match variations of exhibitions by coming from a conscious led cultural standing point, which even in our current climate, even with recession looming over our heads, it’s refreshing. Their current position within the ‘Too Late’ exhibition creates an abstract of socio-political raised issues of power, sex, and marginalized or subcultural behavioural patterns in an alignment with architectonics.
Liam Gillick once used the idea of relational aesthetics as a light in a fridge, it only turns on when you open the door to view inside the fridge. The light is only activated when there is a viewer. The same is true for Elmgreen & Dragset’s exhibition Too Late. It is an empty space, not even technically a gallery space. It is left, vacant and inexistent until we arrive and activate it.
It might not exactly be the most innovative exhibition out right now, and not even that risk taking but this site specific exhibition does offer us a piece of mind and something new, a playful edge with a touch of drama and melancholy to think about when we next click that attending invite on Facebook, and is totally reminiscent of that last song the DJ plays to frame the rest of the night on.