DK/NO, b.1961 and 1969
Electronic display, aluminum double door, plant and flower pot, bench with chairs, number dispenser, magazines, lettering.
MUSEUM MMK FÜR MODERNE KUNST
Gift of the DekaBank art collection
We are met by a large deserted space and a closed door seemingly leading nowhere. There is a pile of magazines, but no one reads them. The Danish-Norwegian artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset create clinical spaces which, on the face of it, resemble those people frequent every day. However, they often appear even more clinical, deserted, and glum than they really are. The artist duo’s large-scale installation may present a kind of surrealistic image of man’s state of mind.
The work Meldeamt, meaning registry office, can be experienced as symbolising the encounter with a bureaucratic system where the individual has been reduced to a number in the queue. The miserable atmosphere is emphasised by the fact that the number on the screen never changes. Time seems to have stopped. The almost sterile design with a lonely plant in the corner creates a dull atmosphere with associations to many types of waiting rooms experienced over a lifetime, from visiting the doctor to renewing our passport or registering at the job centre.
The unemployment office is everyday life for some, both as a workplace, but also as a place you need to attend if you are unemployed and looking for a new job. Often, the unemployment office and job centre are bracketed with a life on state benefit, which can be associated with feelings of shame and social exclusion. Statistics show that it is harder for unemployed people to get a job than for those already in a job. To many, a life without work means repeated visits to the job centre and the hopelessness connected with this. Unemployment may seem daunting, since the job is not merely a source of income, but very often an integral part of our identity. If you are nothing but a number in the unemployment queue, who are you?