Michael Elmgreen (1961-) and Ingar Dragset (1969-), Please, keep quiet!, 2003
You enter the installation Please, keep quiet! through a swing door that slams shut behind you, and here, right in the middle of the art institution, you are unexpectedly confronted with a lifelike scene from an entirely different world. At first glance, the installation looks like a four-bed hospital ward, complete with beds, patients, bedside tables, and a fabric screen on castors.
A modified reality
This kind of surprise effect has always been part of Elmgreen and Dragset’s strategy. And like all their other works, this installation is a modified and processed version of the reality that, at first glance, the work seems to reconstruct with painstaking detail. In itself, the hospital environment represents a de-personalised and sterile atmosphere.
The artists ironically point out how the anonymous hospital architecture and solemn, introverted atmosphere is actually rather like the art institution and the postulated neutrality of the white exhibition cube. Like many of the artists’ previous pieces, the space created in Please, keep quiet! appears like a collection of samples of different rooms, differing functions, and irreconcilable purposes and situations.
Our biological mortality
In this work, we are confronted with our biological mortality right in the middle of the art institution, a place that normally concerns itself with the transcendent immortality of art. In this way, Elmgreen and Dragset show us the real fragility of all the structures that we take for granted. They demonstrate how little it takes to change them, and the liberating potential for new insights that this potential change offers.