An artist’s album actually worth listening to—and we have the title track

Cristina Ruiz on Scandinavian artists Elmgreen and Dragset's first vinyl record, released as part of "Biography", at the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, until 24 August

Detail of Elmgreen and Dragset's The Mirror, 2008, courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro gallery

Anyone who has heard a conceptual artist making music may regard Elmgreen and Dragset’s latest initiative with a degree of trepidation. All too often artists’ musical offerings tend to be an all-out assault on auditory sensibility which suck every ounce of pleasure out of the experience of listening.

Happily the Scandinavian duo, who have just released their first vinyl album entitled “Too Late”, are bucking this trend. The title track, written by Ingar Dragset with lyrics by Michael Elmgreen, was first conceived for an installation shown at the Victoria Miro gallery in London in 2008 which recreated a gay night club the morning after a raucous party, complete with empty beer bottles, ashtrays full of cigarettes stubs, explicit posters on the walls and a glittering disco ball which has stopped spinning.

The installation, entitled The Mirror, is now on view at the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo as part of a full-scale retrospective devoted to the artists (“Biography” runs until 28 August then travels to Denmark and Israel). In this context, the lyrics of “Too Late” which recall the night-time escapades of a young hustler (sample lyric—“college boys with no degree/slowly sipping G&T/quoting gender theory/always worried who to be”) take on a nostalgic, almost elegiac tone for a time long since passed. “It’s meant to be sad,” says Ingar Dragset. “The party is over.”

The duo have accumulated the skills underpinning their first record release over a number of years: long before he became an artist (and lyricist), Elmgreen worked as a poet in his native Copenhagen, while Dragset used to perform in a band called Asia Today with the rising British-Japanese art star Simon Fujiwara. This musical initiative was put “on hold” three years ago, Fujiwara says, after the band sold one of their songs to the Mexican soap opera “Soy tu fan” (I’m your fan) for the show’s opening credits. “We thought we better quit while we were ahead,” Fujiwara explains. “It was the pinnacle of what we hoped to achieve… but give it ten years and we’ll regroup for a stadium tour.”

So think of Elmgreen & Dragset as the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber of conceptual art, a description which horrifies Michael Elmgreen. “If you write that, I’ll never talk to you again,” he says.

Elmgreen & Dragset’s “Too Late” vinyl album is available in a limited edition only from the Astrup Fearnley shop; it comes with a series of photographs. Listen to the title track here:

Published Mon, 31 Mar 2014 08:45:00 GMT

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