Gallery visitors to The Welfare Show were invited to consider power structures including economic disparity, health care, immigration, travel, prostitution, the police state and the role art plays in society. Through a series of works and an extensive, encyclopaedia-style catalogue, the exhibition raised such questions as what is the welfare state? How liberal and socially responsible is it? Does it really exist, and is the political system threatened by globalisation and multinationalism?
Since 1997 Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have been creating a series called Powerless Structures that investigates the way in which sites such as prisons, social security offices, hospitals, museums, galleries and parks act as means of social control. The travelling exhibition - also presented in Bergen (Norway), Vienna and Toronto - was redesigned by the artists for each location in response to the specific conditions that impact on the respective cities and countries.
Initiated by Bergen Kunsthall, Norway, the exhibition was produced in collaboration between Bergen Kunsthall; Bawag Foundation, Vienna; The Power Plant, Toronto; and the Serpentine Gallery, London.