Elmgreen & Dragset Q&A
We get into the world of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset to find out what they eat for breakfast, why it’s sometimes best to work in the nude, and at what point in the day they really get round to checking that email inbox.
What was the first thing you thought about when you woke up this morning?
Michael Elmgreen: Oh my god, did the installation team remember to cover our sculpture up before affixing the fake ceiling?
Ingar Dragset: How could I, once again, forget to hang that ’Do Not Disturb’ sign up outside my hotel room door.
What do you wear to work?
ME: Jeans and t-shirt
ID: I don’t have a huge work/leisure divide. At home I prefer to work in the nude. Otherwise I mostly wear something from Wood Wood, Acne, Meds Nørgaard or Filippa K - which are all Scandi brands. Somehow their clothes seem to fit me better than others, they aren’t too swanky or expensive and I don’t have to think too much when I’m buying something new. There are other things that are more fun to spend money on or be creative about.
What do you have for breakfast?
ME: Coffee and cigarettes
Do you read a newspaper/watch television/click online?
ID: German newspapers are actually worth reading. They print proper articles, as if it were still 1989.
How do you get to work?
ME: I live in my studio when I’m in Berlin. When we are preparing for international shows I mostly take a cab from my hotel since I easily get lost in new cities.
ID: By car, or by bike when it is not raining (so, not too often)
What time do you first check your inbox?
ME: Never before noon
ID: I’m afraid I can’t tell you (it might offend a lot of people I haven’t replied to lately)
Where are your desk and chair from?
ID: Eiermann and Eames - we bought them in bulk for the studio, and now we’ll probably have to live with them for the rest of our lives. It’s not that quality never goes out of style, it’s just that quality is quality and having spent all that money you don’t feel like throwing something functioning perfectly well out on the street.
If you could save only one item from your office/studio what would it be?
ME: The hard drive
ID: My laptop. If the world was on fire, then a pen.
Do you listen to music whilst you work? If so, what are you listening to at the moment?
ME: XX and old Bright Eyes songs
ID: Mendelsohn’s Elijah oratorium. We’ve been asked to do a stage set for it. It is very religious and romantic material. I initially thought, ’Hell, no!’ but now I’m absolutely smitten by the pathos of the choir parts. It makes me feel like a sentimental, middle aged gay man, but a happy one.
Where would your ideal lunch be and who would it be with?
ME: Sunday dim sum in Chinatown with my boyfriend and a whole bunch of friends.
ID: At home on a Tuesday with my boyfriend.
Summarise in three words your work ethos?
ME: A clever question is more interesting than a predictable answer. Was that 3 words?
ID: ’Give it all’ in healthy balance with ’Give it up’
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
ME: All my neuroses but after all they might be what keep me going.
ID: My fear of speaking in public.
What do you think is the most overrated virtue?
ID: Steadfastness. Maybe just because it is one that I do not possess myself.
Is there any single person that particularly inspires you?
Where do you feel most inspired?
ME: In ugly hotel rooms
ID: Anywhere overlooking the sea. Stupidly I chose Berlin as my home-base.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
ME: Staying alive in spite of my unhealthy lifestyle
ID: Realizing dreams I didn’t know I had.
How do you switch off?
ME: I seldom do
ID: There’s nothing like a good novel to bring you into another world. At the moment I’m following Roberto Bolano’s ’Savage Detectives’ and J.M. Coetzee’s ’Elizabeth Costello’ around the world.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
ME: A car designer or a freedom fighter in Latin America
ID: Ballet dancer, novelist and architect.
What excites you/terrifies you on a daily basis?
ME: Most things
Would you like to be your own assistant?
ME: No, I am the worst employee.
ID: I often feel like I am.
Is there anything about retirement you look forward to?
ID: Artists don’t retire. But if I do, I’ll look forward to ploughing through all the great old museums, reading all the classics and visiting every country on the planet (without worrying about paint surfaces and where to get the right nuts and bolts).
If you could choose to come back as person or thing, who or what would it be?
ME: A gold fish in a glass bowl or Ingmar Bergman
ID: As Jesus. What a mess that would make.