Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Too Late

Posted in Reviews by mingjiuntsai on November 4, 2008

You receive an invitation to a party, but you don’t know that you will always be too late for it. You go to the party you can never attend, and still spend a long time seeing all the evidence of a party being left behind. It is like the increased number of people who spend time on seeing the empty wall in the Louvre Museum while Mona Lisa is stolen.

What was brought to your mind when you see the title ‘Too Late’ and the photo – a line of young men fall asleep in front of the door of a bar ‘The Mirror’ – which supposed to be the image of the work in the exhibition? You probably think that it is an image of these young men falling asleep because the pub opens too late for their waiting and this exhibition is about photography and time. You will not know what it is until you are there and find out that you are the person too late for being one of them in the queue for the party. This image that Elegreen & Dragset choose gives a clue to the viewers and leads them to think that it is an exhibition about ‘time.’ While being in the site, it may make the viewers to think it is an exhibition about an ‘event.’ Yet being more accurately, the exhibition is about expectation and absence. It starts when you know the title of the show and it doesn’t finish even when you walk out of the door.

The title is a signifier that has the signified of time. The image, which is also a signifier, strengthens the idea of time and makes the viewers to be almost certain about their expectation. However, the expectation may be broken by the actual set of the exhibition. All these small photos on the wall are like documentary decorations of the place, and you see the familiar one among them. There was a big gay-party that took place at the space where you are now. You cannot open the locked VIP door and then you start to walk around the cosy red sofa, the big mirror ball on the floor, the mass bottles and cigarettes everywhere and the toilet of ‘pleasure.’ The reason of the seeing around is not to look at these objects in the scene, but try to figure out the party that you missed and fulfill the expectation of seeing it. For you, all these evidences are signifiers that have the signified ‘party,’ hence, even you are not part of it, but you can still ‘see’ it, in some ways.

If we read this relationship between the viewers and the exhibition from Lacan’s concept ‘desire,’ we can see that the viewers live up to their expectation of the party via the absence. The concern is not about what can be seen rather what cannot be seen. Since being too late for the party is the unchangeable truth, it makes the individual imagination of the party to satisfy to the viewers’ expectation more effectively. Moreover, all the elements of a party in the show leave the viewers the image of how is it after a party. This is a unique experience for them to join an absent party.

You cannot enter the VIP room to be the one who faces a whole shelf of wine on the first floor and neither can you be like the two who have fun in the small toilet. But you attend a missed party that creates a deep impression. Elmgreen & Dragset once again built a scene, but this is not like having a PRADA boutique in the middle of a desert to be seen; it is having a phenomenon not to be seen in the central London.victoriamiro-toolate

Elmgreen & Dragset: Too Late

Victoria Miro

14/ October – 15/ November/ 2008



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