Happy Days in the Art World, Tramway, Glasgow
Wednesday 26 October 2011
Previewing in Glasgow before its premiere proper at New York's Performa biennial next week, this piece by the Danish-Norwegian conceptual art duo Elmgreen & Dragset blurs the line between performance art and theatre.
Joseph Fiennes, working with the pair again after his appearance in 2008's Drama Queens with Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic, teams with Charles Edwards to play a surrogate version of the duo named, rather pointedly, Id and Me. The pair awaken on bunk beds in a darkened space, wearing identical black suits and white shirts, and with no memory of where they are or what they did the night before.
Me, timid and unwilling to risk stepping off the bed, remembers dreaming of Berlin, where they were waiting for a Ukrainian oligarch's wife to drive across Poland in her pink Porsche and buy everything in their studio. Id, cocky and dangerously bold, strides off into the darkness and finds a lever, pulling it to illuminate the large, broken exit sign towering behind them. It appears the pair have been absorbed into one of their own gallery exhibits.
Under the direction of Toby Frow and with advice from Tim Etchells, the artists, working as scriptwriters and set designers, have created a piece which takes as one of its inspirations Sarah Thornton's book Seven Days in the Art World, and it's the snarky, in-jokey insights into being a successful middle-aged duo of contemporary artists which ring most entertainingly true. "If one of us dies, the other won't be worth anything," complains one. "You can't sack me for serving no purpose – that's what artists do," whines the other.
The central performances lend a touch of class to the piece, and an air of arch camp which reflects The Odd Couple blended with Gilbert & George, with some deft and subtle physical comedy from Fiennes. Perhaps the tone of this preview hasn't quite been settled, but there are one too many overplayed jokes, Kim Criswell's blind and robotic delivery woman who ends the piece crooning U2's "One" serving both to amuse and to confuse.
The Godot-ish final touch, though, with the pair left awaiting a visit from Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector, points vividly to the lonely hope of the studio-bound artist.
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Lego letter from the 1970s still offers a powerful message to parents 40 years later
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Green Party Caroline Lucas interview: 'We could be on the edge of something very big'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Strictly Come Dancing results: Steve Backshall and Ola Jordan sent home
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Why are the words 'mongol', 'mongoloid' and 'mongy' still bandied about as insults?
Tom DeLonge compares streaming music to killing elephants
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage of Lana Del Rey rape video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict