Elgreen and Dragset’s Harvest at Victoria Miro


Within an attic located up a steep flight of stairs, Elgreen and Dragset have made a faithful impression of a hayloft with tools hanging along the wall such as a harness, rake and scythe.  From a distance the timber structure of this imaginary barn spells out ‘kunst’, connecting the artifice of a working farm to art and the imagination. This blurring of boundaries sets up an entertaining enquiry into the realm of fantasy and expectation. On an opposing low wall the model of a boy sits looking down to the gallery below with his back to the tableau, while a resin vulture perches overhead. This menacing creature is named the ‘critic’ as a well-aimed barb at the expense of the media.
A darker theme is introduced by a miniature house placed on a rocking chair, titled ‘Home is the Place You Left. The reassuring environment of a farm with all its associations of nurture, fertility and abundance gradually acquires a gothic character arising out of these parodic props.  This uncanny set first establishes reassurance, and then undermines the apparent rural charm. Above a barn door, a stag’s antlers sprout from a head that is less skeletal than resiliently fleshy. An empty birdbox asserts the absence of life itself.
Continuing the Harvest theme below on the ground floor, the artists exhibit a project that sources layers of wall paint stripped from museums with techniques developed to preserve frescoes. Attached to framed canvasses, these fragments have been diligently removed from sites in Europe and the US and assume the monochromatic insistence of Minimalist painting. Tones range from bleached white to beige and textures vary from one ‘donor’ institution to the next. Their sizes are inconsistent as are the distances between each work, aping natural contrasts within public collections, and yet each banal surface of domestic paint shares formal origins and qualities.
Elgreen and Dragset’s hayloft introduces a nuanced psychic space of memory, discovery and potential trauma. The series of ‘paintings’ collected from and named after individual museums archly satirises Minimal seriality and institutional authority but this playfulness cannot compensate for a frustrating absence of enduring perceptual or conceptual weight.

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