The exhibition features a series of works titled Side Effects – a number of custom-made glass vases displayed throughout the first floor of the gallery.
The uniform shape of these hand blown vases recalls that of an urn, yet here they are slightly slimmer, sleeker and oversized, ranging from 50 to 90 cm in height. Each vase is filled with the actual pigments used to coat pills in the latest generation of HIV medicines, such as Truvada, Atripla, Stribild and Isentress. The pastel color pigments – peach, pink, mint green and light blue – evoke a sense of innocence and put forth an outwardly harmless façade, an attractive, almost candy-like appearance that contradicts the toxic reality of these medications. Employing and at the same time subverting the tenets of minimalism, Side Effects can be seen in a historical context of works by artists such as Roni Horn or Félix González-Torres, or as an updated version of the artist group General Idea’s PLA©EBO from 1991. However, today HIV is no longer considered a fatal disease and with new medicines, patients can count on a close to normal life expectancy, though often burdened with various side effects. In spite of the record high numbers of newly infected young people in recent years, the media and governments seem to have lost their interest in the subject matter now that HIV is no longer a sensational topic. Elmgreen & Dragset’s vases stand in groups of one, two or three, according to the daily prescribed pill dosage and combination of each medicine. They are displayed on low, clinical looking plinths made in stainless steel, reminiscent of the sterile interior of a laboratory as well as of Donald Judd’s aesthetics.