MICHAEL ELMGREEN AND INGAR DRAGSET at the Power Plant (231 Queens Quay West) to May 28. $4, stu/srs $2. 416-973-4949. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Berlin-based Scandinavian artists Michael Elmgreen (Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (Norway) appropriate physical constructions to comment on the influence of institutions.
Their attention to detail and the adventurous scale of their Welfare Show pay off, including their repainting of the Power Plant chimney to read, "The Powerless."
Wandering around the gallery, you see, among other things, a television studio, a convincing hospital hallway and a working airport baggage claim with a single bag.
Unfortunately, the humour gets lost in translation. A mechanical billboard reading, "This space can't be yours" on all three faces is painfully obvious. The show may work better for Scandinavian social democrats, for whom English has become the invasive, loaded language of American corporate interests.
Elsewhere, the cultural commentary gags fall flatter than a laugh-tracked candid-camera TV show. Office Corridor is exactly what it claims to be, except the doorknobs don't turn and one of them is on the wall instead of the door. The unintentionally toxic smell of one of the chemicals involved in building the short hallway, however, says a lot about the creation of corporate space.
It's a shame. Much of what Elmgreen and Dragset do survives translation beautifully, like Prada Marfa, (2005). On a desolate west Texas highway, the pair built and stocked an exact replica of a fancy European Prada store, recreating every detail except for the door, and left it there to fall apart.
What really works here is less the installation than the way it makes you see the gallery space itself as institutional.
Functional details to which you wouldn't normally pay attention, such as an exit sign or a security camera, could be part of the show or the gallery. Thus, before you realize it, the gallery becomes the show. For quietly pulling that off, Elmgreen and Dragset get extra kudos.