Were it not for the gleaming beer taps, Elmgreen & Dragset’s ovoid Queer Bar/Powerless Structures, Fig. 221 (which has just won Best Watering Hole in the Wallpaper* Design Awards) could have been a minimalist monument, its sterile Corian surfaces evoking a clinic rather than a seedy drinking den.
The humour, of course, lies in its inside-out configuration; the black stools are trapped in its core, which the viewer is unable to access. As in the artists’ earlier work – whether a diving board bisected by a window, a pair of pissoirs encased in glass, or a series of inoperable doors – the denial of function transforms a mundane item into a catalyst for contemplation.
Created two decades after the original Queer Bar/Powerless Structures, Fig. 21, the new work speaks not so much to LGBT disenfranchisement but rather bygone pleasures. Specifically, it bemoans the fading ritual of meeting new friends or lovers at a bar, at a time when social media has all but driven in-person introductions into extinction.