Frustration is the star of the show. Scandinavian artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset act as doormen between today's celebrity culture and everyday reality. The installation 'Celebrity - The One and The Many' is staged at the ZKM Center for Arts and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany.
At set dates, a crowd of paparazzi photographers welcome the visitors with an Oscar-like red carpet photo shooting at the show's entrance.
Then, in the first atrium of the ZKM, there is a life-size four-story concrete slab high rise. You cannot enter the building, but you may watch through the windows. There are hyperrealist lower class homes: The claustrophobic apartment of an old couple or a lonely young man watching a (real) gay dating website. The small apartments are all different, but the imaginary inhabitants seem to share a yearning for some sort of higher identity through mass media.
The exterior design of the building clearly quotes the minimal sculptures by Donald Judd (1928 - 1994). In 2005, for the sculpture 'Prada Marfa', they built a fake Prada store in the middle of the Texan dessert, on the way to the village Marfa. Mr. Judd settled there in 1971 looking for an antidote to the glamour of the New York art scene.
The second atrium gives the visitors the impression to be inside a luxurious reception hall leading to an even more pompous party. However, again you cannot enter the party: The visitors can only see the silhouettes of the imagined VIP guests on the frosted-glass doors to the non-existing party hall.
In the reception hall, there is a golden sculpture wearing a servant’s uniform. On the opposite side of the hall, you discover the lonely and sad sculpture of the staged son of the host. He is wearing an elite school's uniform and seems to be the future host of these parties.
Elmgreen & Dragset's message is trivial: If you match your life with high gloss mass media images you inevitably will be frustrated.
However, they form their criticism on the current celebrity culture in a very elaborate way: The viewer with his frustrated expectations and his obtrusive curiosity is actually part of the work. There are references to art history; there are parts of the installation that look like design objects; there is an (imaginary) performance but there are no performers - and many more.