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EUROPEAN NEWS: ELMGREEN & DRAGSET; HAACKE; HOET

WORK BY ELMGREEN & DRAGSET BANNED: As Witte de With’s exhibition “Hortus Conclusus” (Enclosed garden) came to a close in Rotterdam last week, one artwork remained conspicuously absent: Cruising Pavilion/Powerless Structures, Fig. 55, 1998, by the Scandinavian artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset. The white wooden pavilion, which features glory holes inside, was banned by park officials from the city’s rose garden, where the artists intended to install the work. Curator Tanja Elstgeest succeeded in obtaining permission from both city officials and local police. But despite ongoing efforts, park authorities have refused to reverse their decision on the grounds that the 3-by-4-by-4-meter structure would damage the grass; park officials also felt that the work undermined public accessibility, insisting that “the park is for everyone.”

Michael Elmgreen sees things differently. “They want the park to appeal to as many people as possible,” explains the artist. “But when they eliminate specific cultural signs, nobody feels attracted to the area. We’ve also heard stories that they consider the Turkish population barbecuing to be a big problem because it doesn’t look good, but they are the real users of the park as well as the gay men cruising at night. Excluding these kinds of cultural activities in the park is problematic, if not scary. They claim the park is for ‘everybody’—everybody, it seems, except anyone who disrupts the park’s ‘neutrality.’” In order to document the censorship incident, Elmgreen and Dragset have published a small pamphlet, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.

EARTH ADDED TO HANS HAACKE’S REICHSTAG WORK: Hans Haacke’s Der Bevölkerung (To the population), a controversial installation in the Reichstag in Berlin, got a helping hand from an unexpected source. Two recently discovered cousins of the German chancellor Gerhard Schröder came for an official visit and added earth collected from their hometown in Thüringen to the installation. Haacke hoped that elected representatives from across the country would fill the earth sculpture with soil from their respective constituencies. But many representatives, both liberal and conservative, have refused to comply with the artist’s wishes because they view the work—the title of which is a play on the racial and nationalist implications of the inscription on the facade of the Reichstag, “Dem deutschen Volke” (To the German people)—as reinforcing the phrase “Blut und Boden” (Blood and soil), which the Nazis used in propaganda to legitimize racial purity.

CURATOR GOES FOR HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE: Women visitors who entered Alicia Framis’s Minibar (Just for Women Only), 2000-2001, got an unexpected surprise at “LocusFocus,” the 9th Sonsbeek exhibition in Arnhem, Holland (www.sonsbeek2001.nl). Curator Jan Hoet decided to play the part of a “comfort man” in Framis’s interactive installation: He offered massages as well as aphrodisiac potions to women who entered the gazebo-like structure. The Amsterdam-based Framis, who is a coauthor of the interactive-art manifesto Blue Dogma (www.lostart.nl/loneliness/content_bluedogma.html), created the installation in order to provide heterosexual women with a cruising space where they could decide—and demand—their own pleasure. Hoet, who curated Documenta 9 and now heads SMAK (Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst) in Ghent, was all too happy to comply. The exhibition continues through September 23.

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